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United Way Blog

When Small Actions Are Great

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s an excellent guiding principle, especially as we celebrate his birthday during MLK Day of Service on January 21.

Jalaja Uppili has made acts of service a central part of her life. Years ago, she and her son began coordinating volunteer projects at the Children’s Book Bank and Kinship House counseling center in Portland, Oregon. She and others will be busy this weekend when United Way of the Columbia-Willamette offers nearly 80 different volunteer opportunities.

More than 1,600 people will pitch in to clean and organize gently used books that will be delivered to children at home—a crucial step in preparing kids for kindergarten. Or, they will transform neighborhoods by painting, cleaning and sprucing up community spaces to give children vibrant, safe places to play.

All these are small acts with big impact, not the least of which is that volunteers of all ages feel engaged and come to understand the difference they can make in other people’s lives. “You feel like you are helping carry on the legacy [toward] equality” says Jalaja. “If you help others, then I think they’re going to be helpful to somebody else. You build community that way.”

That’s what Dr. King had in mind when he talked about a “Beloved Community.” We come to understand that no matter where we were born, the color of our skin or the size of our bank account, we are all interconnected. Our individual well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others.

So, whether it's United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties leading College of Wooster students in canvassing neighborhoods with information about installing smoke alarms, or United Way of the Piedmont volunteers writing encouraging notes to active duty military, small acts of service today – and every day – are meaningful. What will you do in a great way today?