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SIMMONS: Volunteerism’s virtue? It’s nonpartisan

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The lineups of the pomp and pageantry of the parades and galas that mark the presidential inauguration have been reported, and people from all walks of life and corners of the world are readying for the occasion — and that's a good thing because it's what we do to honor our unique republican roots and our democratic resilience.

In the meantime, let's not forget another all-American cornerstone: service and aid to others.

Don't give it a second thought.

These are troubling times for many, and sometimes all they need is the occasional helping hand.

We need to walk with the wind, to paraphrase Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, and pitch in like "a thousand points of light," to borrow a few inaugural address words from former President George H.W. Bush, a Republican.

Sure, we can't wait to see representatives from our states and various organizations, including military regiments and schools, in the ceremonial marches along America's Main Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and we might be dying to see what first lady Michelle Obama wears during the swearing-in ceremonies and two official presidential balls.

And know what?

You might even be among those who do not live in Washington but anxiously await performances by Marc Anthony, James Taylor and Smokey Robinson.

But let's also remember that reaching out and supporting others are now integral parts of inaugural festivities.

How and where you serve doesn't matter.

Just serve.

If you happen to be in the D.C. metro area during inaugural weekend, you can pop over Saturday morning to Anacostia, where participants for the 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Freedom Walk will begin assembling at 8:30.

If you're undecided, lots of options are available at the Mall on the same day, when dozens of organizations representing a broad range of initiatives, including faith-based and armed services programs, will guide you on volunteering.

If that's too local, and you want to know what's happening in your state, visit serve.gov, a clearinghouse that not only promotes giving back, but allows you to search for a specific area of interest by ZIP code.

Another engaging website is pointsoflight.org, where visitors are also given tips on aiding military families.

Too often, anti-war sentiments mean we turn our backs on the very people who serve on the front lines and, once back home, are left to fend for themselves. (The repercussions of Americans' hatred of the Vietnam War are still among us.)

But it's easy — it's so easy, folks — to look at your own community, where children need volunteer tutors, mentors and athletic coaches, armed-service members need a wink, thank you and caring hand, and the sick and shut-in need a healthy meal, free ride to a pharmacy or someone to read to them.

It also doesn't matter whether you're a Kennedy or Obama Democrat, Reagan or Bush Republican, filthy wealthy or broke as a haint, American born or birthed in another country.

We are, as the saying goes, all in this together.

Hand-in-hand

The winds of change are upon us, although the central figure of this inaugural weekend is hardly unfamiliar to us.

So I leave you with a few words from Mr. Lewis, reared in a family of Alabama sharecroppers.

Mr. Lewis once said to me, in an interview many years ago, that to be effective when you're moving with purpose, it's best to have the wind at your back.

He mentioned that that is exactly what he and his relatives had to do when the wind kicked up a horrifying storm around their wood-planked home.

"Walking with the wind saved our house and our family," he said in an undeniably Southern drawl.

The devil and the details

There is a recurring theme among gun-control advocacy.

The gun made them do it.

How insane.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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