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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reflections on Day of Dignity 2010

The impetus behind "Day of Dignity" can be drawn from our mission here at Islamic Relief USA, which includes "… to alleviate suffering …. and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner." Over the course of the 2010 Days of Dignity, I’ve often been asked, “Why Day of Dignity?” My response is that events associated with the Day of Dignity provide an opportunity for people of all persuasions to be of service to people in need, at least one time, one day, one month of the year.

The last Day of Dignity event in Capitol Heights, Md., on Dec. 18th completed nearly a year of efforts and events that began last spring with training sessions for coordinators who, over the next eight months, would manage thousands of volunteers and serve many more thousands of beneficiaries.

Since the first Day of Dignity event at Fort Thompson in South Dakota last June, volunteers have worked selflessly to ensure that the event(s) in their respective cities went well. So engaged were they that, on occasion, volunteers ventured from one event to the next, from one city to another, to participate. To witness this was a blessing from Allah (swt).

Invariably, volunteers would gather early for work, long before the day was to officially start. And likewise, beneficiaries would begin to line up in anticipation of what was to come. Once the day’s events would get under way, I would witness the smiles on the faces of both those who gave and those who received.

To watch people queue up for a meal, health screening or a haircut and a few personal supplies reminded me of the adage, "But by the grace of God, there go I." I remember thinking that in a country so blessed with natural resources and human capacity, it was almost unthinkable that people would be homeless, that children would go to bed hungry and that too often some of our senior citizens would find themselves faced with the decision of whether to eat, pay their utilities or buy much-needed medication.

While Day of Dignity wouldn’t make any of those realities disappear, I encourage people to look upon it as a model.

It’s a model that packages concern and compassion and partners it with unbridled volunteerism, which then creates the synergy that has the capacity to help us find solutions to everyday problems facing our society. Ideally, people would look at Day of Dignity and see it as a concept that provokes action and begets positive results. If they find any pleasure in that activity, then I would encourage them to work to see that it is replicated, in some form, in other areas of the country.

As the last 2010 Day of Dignity event wound down last weekend, I went through the mental exercise of recalling favorite moments or a favorite moment from the different cities where the events were held. A volunteer in Washington, D.C., a young Christian college student, summed it up best when she said, "I just wanted to come and give. [I want to] acknowledge, if possible, some of the blessings I have received in life and try to provide some relief to those facing difficulty today. I have what I need, and so, I and others in similar circumstances should be willing to share with those less fortunate."

And I was then reminded of that tried-and-true saying: "To those that are given much, much is expected."

-- Saleem Khalid, Islamic Relief USA
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