Best known as a pioneer of the Civil Rights movement, spearheading such protests as the Montgomery Bus Boycott with Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a pivotal role in organizing community based efforts to address social issues like poverty. It is the zeal that Martin Luther King, Jr. had for organizing community based projects that led to the celebration of his birthday being associated with national service. Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has been recognized by Congress as a national day of service. Occurring every year on the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King, Jr. day is the only federal holiday that is observed as a national day of service. Websites such as http:/mlk.gov help steer individuals towards service projects in their area, along with assisting them on creating projects of their own.
This celebration of service takes me back 4 years when the nation seemed to be brimming with a spirit of community service, poised to embrace a change from Washington’s “business as usual” slogan trumpeted by the winning candidates. Today, plagued with a broken economy, bitter bipartisan disagreements, epic natural disasters, and shootings at malls, at a movie theatre, and a school, much of the drive towards community service that was present at President Obama’s first inauguration was in short order at today’s inauguration. Understandably, many people are anxious about the state of today’s political, environmental, and social sphere. It’s hard to think about the community at large when your own piece of the world may be falling apart around you. The beauty of volunteering is its gift of perspective, the way it takes the focus off of oneself towards another person and/or circumstance. Volunteering gives one the opportunity not only to help individuals who may be needier than themselves, but also provides the chance to connect with a part of the community one may not have connected with otherwise. Joining or starting an organization to channel ones efforts is great, but something as simple as helping your neighbor with their groceries, meeting up to talk with a friend that is going through tough times, are steps in the direction of changing ones community for the better.
Looking beyond ourselves to connect with others and serve our community is part of the dream that Dr. King had for the nation. It is the part of his dream that was reignited 4 years ago, the part of the dream I hope is reignited today.
In what ways do you believe you can, or are, effecting change in your community?