No kindness is too small
Helping the American Legion Auxiliary fulfill its mission of selfless service doesn’t always mean carrying out complicated, grand gestures of generosity. Not everyone can do large-scale activities and events — and that’s OK.
ALA members and nonmember volunteers have been doing what they can, whenever and however they can, to serve the mission for 100 years with no end in sight. As a result, the Auxiliary has made a difference in the lives of millions of America’s veterans, servicemembers, and military families, mentored youth, and enhanced numerous local communities. Also, the ALA has promoted patriotism, encouraged good citizenship, and supported the principles and endeavors of The American Legion.
Some ALA mission-based outreach, such as organizing and carrying out a care package program for deployed servicemembers, requires lots of effort and time. Other outreach efforts are as simple as saying hello to a veteran or servicemember, and thanking him or her for their service. Many outreach events and activities have degrees of difficulty that fall somewhere between those two extremes.
The American Legion Auxiliary strives to positively impact as many of our military heroes and their families, our youth, and our communities as possible — and understands this often involves larger-scale mission outreach. At the same time, the ALA recognizes that significant impact can be made by helping one person at a time, showing care and appreciation through simple, thoughtful deeds.
Consider this account, published in the Aug. 21, 1925, edition of The American Legion Weekly:
The whole country noticed when the Auxiliary this year took the lead in organizing a conference on national defense as a peace insurance — but meanwhile thousands of Auxiliary members unobserved were making pajamas for the disabled men in hospitals or canning fruit for these same men.
It should be recorded to the Auxiliary’s everlasting credit that year after year it carries on its unspectacular activities expecting no other reward than its own consciousness of having served those who served their country well.
Perhaps those activities should be described as “simple.” Connecting to another person by engaging in a good deed rooted in generosity, care, gratitude, and sincerity is a spectacular thing. No act of genuine kindness is too small to make a difference.
ALA member Sara Brogan, of Unit 40 in Danville, Pa., is an example of this. For most of her Auxiliary membership, which spans several decades, Brogan had actively participated in a variety of unit functions and other fundraising activities until she moved into a nursing home a while ago. Her granddaughter, Unit 40 President Kimberly Speer, took Brogan to unit meetings when possible.
But Brogan wanted to do more. For years, she carried red crepe paper poppies in her purse. Everywhere she went, she proudly distributed the iconic flowers in exchange for donations to help veterans, servicemembers, and their families. With a smile on her face, Brogan did this whenever she could — including on National Poppy Day®, the Friday immediately prior to Memorial Day.
“Our veterans, our servicemen and women, and their families … it’s for them. They deserve it,” said Brogan, a Paid Up For Life ALA member.
The added benefit to Brogan’s effort is that the red poppy can be a comfort to those who understand that wearing or displaying the flower is a way to honor our fallen military heroes and to show support for our veterans, servicemembers, and their families. Brogan is no longer at the nursing facility. She is living at home with relatives, still attending ALA meetings when she can — and still carrying her purse filled with poppies, ready to distribute them for donations whenever and wherever she can.
With a clear understanding of one’s ability levels, time constraints and other relevant factors, ALA members and nonmember volunteers can determine what they can do to help the American Legion Auxiliary continue its century-long legacy of selfless service. There’s more than one way to serve the ALA’s mission.
This article was first published in the November 2019 Auxiliary magazine.