Annie's Mailbox: Wedding dates present dilemma

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Dear Annie: My two sisters live in different states. They have daughters who are getting married three weeks apart. Because my wife and I don't have the resources to fly to both weddings, rent a car and get a hotel room plus a gift, which one do we attend? I love my nieces equally, but attending both is more than we can afford. Any suggestions?

- Torn in Toledo

Dear Toledo: Here are your options: See whether there are low-cost airfares and hotels that will allow you to attend both; attend neither; attend the first one for which you receive an invitation; you and your wife each could attend one alone in a show of family loyalty. We think you should openly discuss the problem with your sisters so they will understand your dilemma and whatever decision you make.

Dear Annie: As a physical education teacher, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of students in my nine years of teaching. In this age of video games, it seems harder and harder to motivate students to want to participate.

The good news is, our service learning initiative has begun to change that attitude in both our students and our community. I hope you can help me share with other teachers, students, schools and communities how they can engage their students in learning even more by doing for others, starting with Earth Day in April. And it's free!

This is my third year participating in The LEAGUE with my school. We have collected clothes and canned food, written letters to soldiers, firemen and police officers, held penny drives for local children's hospitals, and near Earth Day, we take our entire student population into the local neighborhoods to help clean up after winter. We plant flower beds and trees in various courtyards, and have sponsored a local park in honor of a fallen soldier from our community. Students in all grades can give their time, treasure and talents.

I have seen the excitement in my students - an excitement to help other people while physically doing something to make a difference. My school population is made up of proud children from single-family blue-collar homes with little extra money. The LEAGUE gives every child the opportunity to feel valued and valuable because of their gifts for others. As an educator, I strive to teach my students that they are a necessary and important piece of our school community regardless of background. The LEAGUE helps me prove this to every child in terms they and their families understand.

I would encourage any teacher with a classroom or teacher-certified group (such as a student council or club) to go to the site www.theleague.org to see the wonderful "Learning to Give" curriculum and ideas for engaging our students in the giving of their time, talent and treasure for others.

- Rob Merchant, Break-O-Day Elementary, New Whiteland, Ind.

Dear Rob Merchant: Thanks for your letter about The LEAGUE. Earth Day involves improving our environment and communities, and activities run through the month of April. The LEAGUE inspires kids to give of themselves and become more responsible citizens. We hope all principals, teachers and school organizations will check out the website and find ways to get involved in these worthwhile events.

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