Column: Carry the Spirit of Giving Into the New Year

The writer Oscar Wilde said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  That is indeed the case with acts of volunteerism and charity.

Although it is during the holiday season that our thoughts often turn to how we can help our less fortunate neighbors, I am endlessly moved by the spirit of generosity and civic-mindedness that I see in our communities year-round.

Almost every day I interact with people in our communities who selflessly donate their time and money to support a myriad of worthy organizations and causes.  Almost all of these individuals do so quietly and without any official recognition, taking simple satisfaction from the impact that their actions have on improving life for others in our communities.  To me, each of these people is a local hero.

Here are just a few examples of the people I have had the privilege of meeting — and being inspired by — in recent months:

  • A chef at a shelter for homeless men and women who prepares thousands of nutritious meals each week on an incredibly tight budget, and who could instead be working as the head chef at a five star Boston restaurant;
  • A college student whose parents escaped from terrible hardship in El Salvador and now volunteers to help other immigrant children trying to learn English and become fully assimilated into American life;
  • A high school teacher who runs a project with her students to document and preserve local military history and to foster greater recognition and appreciation for our veterans;
  • A senior citizen who serves as a volunteer board member for one of our local public housing authorities and is a tireless activist for affordable housing and other services for seniors and people with disabilities;
  • A mother concerned about the well-being of high school seniors on their graduation night who is organizing an all-night event where graduates can celebrate with their friends in a fun, safe and substance-free environment;
  • A real estate developer who worked for years with local officials, government agencies, and a social service provider to transform a rooming house into a beautiful group home for 12 low-income adults with developmental disabilities; and,
  • A community activist who has been working for more than 20 years to turn an abandoned rail corridor into a greenway and bikeway that will beautify our communities and provide safe recreational opportunities for people of all ages.

Of course, each of these remarkable individuals cannot achieve their goals alone and they are working together with others who are equally as devoted to the well-being of our communities.

During the holiday season and year-round there are countless opportunities to volunteer in our communities — from donating food and stocking shelves at a food pantry to being a mentor for an at-risk youth to supporting efforts to end domestic violence.

Volunteering to serve in local government is another great way to make a difference.  Municipal government relies heavily on volunteers from the community who can offer their time and unique expertise on various boards and committees.  Often there are vacancies that need to be filled.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?”  If you want to discuss local volunteer or charitable opportunities, please feel free to contact my office at (617) 722-1206 or and we would be happy to provide you with ideas and contact information for many worthy local organizations in our communities.

I wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and a very happy New Year.