Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today is Martin Luther King Day. It's not marked on the calendar in Malaysia or Singapore, and most folks in the region probably have never heard of this man who gave President-elect Barack Obama the courage to dream and the audacity to follow that dream all the way to the White House.

But what impacted me was how the day is always celebrated in the US - with community service. Today, 19 January 2009, which is also the eve of the inauguration of the first African-American President, who better exemplifies this spirit of service than Obama himself?

A day before he takes the oath to serve the nation and its people, Obama appealed to all Americans to honour the Reverend MLK through service to others. He followed up on his words by visiting a military hospital and talking to the wounded troops there, and then dropping by at an emergency shelter for homeless teens where he helped to paint the walls. He said there can't be any "idle hands" at a time of national hardship.

How can one not be inspired by Obama?

To quote former US President Franklin Roosevelt, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

And here's how we seniors can do our part, either as an individual or as a group.

~ For those of us with money to spare, we can donate to a deserving charity or a noble cause. Even RM10 can go a long way if many contribute.

Helping the less fortunate through World Vision.

A bag of rice goes a long way for the poorest of the poor.

~ For those of us with time to spare, we can volunteer to help out at welfare organizations or community support groups.

~ For those of us with energy to spare, we can start our own project to raise funds for charity, or create awareness for the less fortunate in society.

Volunteers busy packing bags of food and provisions for distribution.

Recent research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life.

And get this: Older individuals who volunteer demonstrate greater health benefits than do younger volunteers, due in part to the fact that volunteer activities by older individuals are more likely to provide them with a purposeful social role.

So age does matter in this case.

Count me in as a volunteer. I want to enjoy better health in my old age. Don't you?

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