The most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we will honor this year on Jan. 15, not only spoke those lofty words, but also lived them. The civil rights leader and pastor was all of 39 when he was gunned down in April 1968 because he dared to seek equal rights for black people, but he packed eons of service to humankind into his all-too-short life.
King’s life was one of sacrifice. It had deep and profound meaning, not only for the people of the 1960s, but also for the generations of Americans who followed him — including those generations who are yet to be born.
King helped usher in an era of tolerance and justice for an often intolerant, bigoted nation. As we saw from the terrible events in Charlottesville, Va., last August, when white supremacists and neo-Nazis stormed the city “in protest,” we have quite a ways to go as a nation to achieve King’s vision of racial equality. He set us on the path, however. He changed our nation’s trajectory.
For him, achieving peace was like climbing a spiraling staircase. “Faith,” he said, “is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Finding peace among people of all races and creeds is a circuitous journey, full of twists and turns, but it is one worth taking, no matter the potential risks. It is a journey that we, as a nation, must take.
As another great civil rights leader, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, said, “Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of service, and his day should be a day of service.” That is why his birthday is known as the MLK Day of Service.
For information on how to get involved next Monday, visit the Corporation for National and Community Service website.
As King noted, “Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve.”