Veterans day is tomorrow and I thought that in addition to using the day off to meet a girl friend for lunch and take advantage of some department store sales, I would take a moment to remember those who have served and are still serving our country.  If you are looking for a way to honor or remember a veteran, here are five of my favorites.

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1- call your local VA hospital and sign up to be a volunteer – this is something I had to do in college as part of a class on the legacies of the Vietnam war and at the risk of sounding dramatic; it was truly a profound experience. Since many veterans travel to go to a VA hospital often they are with out friends or family nearby.  In addition to providing service to the hospital volunteers make wonderful companions and visitors to patients.  You may find that sometimes the nicest thing we can do for another person is to sit listen.  You can check it out here if you are interested.

2- donate to a CARE package-  CARE traces its roots to the days after WWII when 22 American organizations combined forces to rush emergency rations in the form of “CARE packages” to war-torn Europe.  CARE not only provides  packages to soldiers but continues to be a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.  You can give to CARE here, or contact your nearest American Legion post to find out where there are drop sites by you (ours is a local bank).  They will happily give you a list of what soldiers are in need of (most of the list is disturbingly simple; toiletries, sunblock, paper, playing cards, etc)

3-donate to another veterans organization of your choice- as I have said before; there is no shortage of charitable organizations out there and that is certainly true of veterans organizations.  I happen to have a soft spot for the Honor Flight Network, but if you do a little looking I am sure you will find one that moves you.

4- flag a veterans grave – the flagging of graves is generally done on Memorial day but many organizations use Veterans Day as an opportunity to survey graves and find out which of them need a flag holder.  The flagging is often done by local boy and girl scout troops, 4H groups, and sons and daughters of military members throughout the country to ensure veterans are honored for their service.

5- fork over a few dollars for a red poppy- The Poppy tradition dates back to September 1920, when the American Legion officially adopted the poppy as its symbol of remembrance. Poppy making provides work for many disabled and hospitalized veterans throughout the country and the funds raised are used to assist veterans and their families in times of need.  If you would like to learn more about the American Legion, you can do it here

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In looking over my past blog postings, it occurred to me that aside from my friends and family (and the occasional rant) I have been strictly talking about myself. So, I decided to share a little bit about some people out there who are doing great things for others. While it would be nearly impossible for me to pick my five favorite organizations, here are the five that regularly get some of my money (in alphabetical order). Check them out if you are interested.

1) AIDS Care Ocean State– Until dedicated medical professionals find a cure for this devastating disease; AIDS Care Ocean State and other organizations like it are providing support and care for people affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition to counseling, case management and medical care, they provide the only assisted living facility for people living with HIV/AIDS

2) JNF– My support of JNF is not about politics or religion or statehood. It is about planting trees in the desert and providing clean drinking water to people the who need it. It is about reminding myself not to take the green parks in my neighborhood or the water that comes from my tap for granted.

3) The Honor Flight Network– I first came to find out about this organization as I was waiting for a flight that had been delayed two hours in Baltimore. The terminal was full of World War II era veterans in matching t-shirts, some with war medals proudly pinned to their chest. I discovered that the Honor Flight Network is an organization that takes WWII veterans FREE of charge to Washington DC to view the new WWII monument. In addition to getting my money, this organization is presently getting some of my time (often more valuable). If the thought of proud men sitting together sharing stories of life, loss and their role fighting for our country is not enough to make you melt, all the volunteers wear shirts that say this: “We can’t all be hero’s. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”

4) Sloan-Kettering– I have had the misfortune of spending time praying for two parents in the waiting room of Sloan-Kettering, and had the great fortune of having them both walk out. This is due in no small part to the phenomenal medical and support staff at this hospital which specializes in cancer care. From the moment you walk in, as a patient or a family member, you are greeted by warm and friendly faces and you know that they are doing everything they can for you and your family member.

5) Susan G. Komen – My first experience with the Susan G Komen foundation was four years ago, when I signed up and completed the 60 mile breast cancer walk. That was two blissful years before a dear friend of ours was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I know that life is never fair, but in this case it seemed particularly unfair. Susan G Komen is just one of the many organizations trying to find a cure for this vicious and brutal disease. As long as women every where suffer through chemo and radiation and wake up every morning to keep fighting, I will happily keep sending them my contribution.

These are just five organizations that are important to me. What is important to you? Who (besides the federal government) gets a part of your money?

Bloggers Note- As many of you know I presently work for a non profit organization and sit on the board of directors for another. I truly respect and support both missions, but I felt it would be too self serving to mention them.

I am a sucker for any movie with Hugh Grant, but one of my all time favorites is Love Actually. In addition to some pretty funny (some smart, and some not so smart) scenes, the premise of the movie is that love, is actually, all around us. Here are the five people who have reminded me that like love, kindness surrounds us every day.

1) The friends who called, text or e-mailed me this morning to let me know that they were thinking of me on my first day at a new job and were sending good vibes my way. I had forgotten how hard it is to be the new kid, and they reminded me that even though I am in a new space, I am not alone.

2) The friend who sent me flowers today to welcome to me to my new office and make me feel at home. If you have ever been called to the admin desk and arrived to see a bouquet of fresh smiling gerber daisy’s, delicate queen Anne’s lace, and sweet roses, you know the feeling can not be re-created. It literally brought tears to my eyes (and in fact, forced me to pretend to have to get something out of my car so I would not be busted crying on my first day).

3) The two men that took pity on me attempting to haul my over sized, over stuffed suitcase up and down the ferry steps on Sunday night. I am seldom impressed by the actions of strangers, but these two men were class acts. I felt compelled to hug them, but instead just thanked them profusely until they became embarrassed and ran away.

4) The friend who stayed at my house this weekend. In addition to a chilled bottle of champagne, she left a complete meal waiting in my refrigerator, so I would not have to cook after my first day at work. I don’t know if this is something she has done before, but it was by far one of the most perfect gifts she could have given me and I hope some day I am able to do it for someone else.

5) All of you. The friends, acquaintances and readers who have passed along their good wishes and their condolences through comments on my blog or via e-mail. Thank you for letting me vent over unwanted kids at a party or share my horror at the thought of my brother, as a pall bearer, carrying the weight of his friend and his own grief on his shoulders. You have helped me more than you know.