Not Just Another Day of Service

Jan 19, 2015 | Social Responsibility

Honor King’s Legacy by Not Waiting to Help.

Millions of people are getting ready right now for a day of service, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Heralded by the president, charities around the country prepare special projects for volunteers. (If you’re reading this and don’t have an activity for the day, check out some of the last minute opportunities here:

Have you ever thought about what changes after you volunteer?

Call to mind for a minute the images of the Civil Rights Movement: men and women locked arm and arm in nonviolent protest, sitting at lunch counters, sitting on a bus, walking across that bridge in Selma. In one of the many ugly moments during the Civil Rights Movement, cameras caught police beating protesters, police dogs attacking them, tear gas, cries of physical pain, and cries of spiritual pain for justice.

And now flash forward to the 21st century, where we have a day to honor the work of Dr. King and those who stood up for civil rights. In Selma, they re-create that historic march across the bridge and some of the police officers who beat Rep. John Lewis and the other protesters walk arm-in-arm together.

Those who helped register Black Americans to vote, who protested for the end to segregation, who protested for wage equality in Memphis were willing to get physically beaten, arrested, and even die so that their sisters and brothers could vote, earn a livable wage, and simply go to a decent school. In turn they changed America in so many awesome ways. And they changed the rest of us, too.

What in your life are you willing to risk?Don't Wait

Where in your life do you walk arm-in-arm with those who are disenfranchised, with those who are hungry, with those who are homeless, with those who are struggling with grief, depression, addiction, or the loss of a job?

What’s stopping you from making that connection? If you’re like many people, you’re caught up in your own distractions. Of course, we all have our own lives to tend to. But beyond the basics, where in your life are you taking time to really connect to the things in this world that really matter: our relationships and care for others?


As you volunteer today, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions tonight.

  • Who did I connect with while serving today?
  • What did I learn new about his or her life and how is it different from mine?
  • What did I share about myself?
  • What are the causes that this service project is connected to? For example, if you cleaned up a neighborhood: Why doesn’t this neighborhood have all the same services as yours? What are the schools like in this neighborhood? What laws impact the work of this charity?

Tomorrow as you return to your regularly scheduled programming, those that you served today will still be there. When will you come back to connect with them? I hope you won’t wait until the next MLK Day.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” here.