These words - spoken by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - are a gripping and thought-provoking prompting to examine the ways in which we show up for others. This quote is a mirror that beckons us past the mundane and self-serving into the deepest levels of introspection. A magnifying glass through whose lens we can view and review more closely the existence or lack thereof of our own social conscience. This quote is a thermometer that checks the temperature of our individual humanitarianism, as well as that of the organizations, institutions (CC: churches), and groups that we are each associated with. These words are an invitation calling each person who comes across them to meditate on a heart posture of goodwill and advocacy toward others, not just in mindset but also in action.
Dr. King’s rhetorical question is one that many of us can, perhaps, provide a perfunctory answer for. We can say that we participated in Habitat for Humanity and took part in building homes for the unhoused – in doing so, good was done. Some would say that they volunteered during the holiday season at food banks or in shelters, providing food or clothing to those in need – in doing so, good was done. Yet others would offer that they have given of their time, talent, and/or treasure to ministry and/or in the school system – in doing so, good was done. All of these are valid offerings for ways in which we can actively do for others.
In this New Year and in a world that is by no means short of the need for continued and increased implementation of benevolence, what would it look like to go further in our execution of service? To build homes with Habitat for Humanity on Saturday and to encourage our policymakers to take action. To volunteer our service in food banks and to stock the food pantries in our own churches in order to regularly give to those in need. To speak to our neighbor(s) and to listen closely to the response given. To donate school supplies to a teacher and show up at school board meetings to lift our voices. Could it be that we are each being summoned into a new level of “life’s most urgent and persistent question?”
2024 makes 41 years (1983) since the passage of legislation that called into effect a new federal holiday in observance of the late Martin Luther King Jr. The annual day of remembrance and service takes place on the 3rd Monday of each January, which either falls on or close to Dr. King’s birthday each year, which is on January 15th. The United States observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, also known as MLK Day, for the first time in 1986. Following the inaugural observance, each state followed suit over time to recognize and implement this day of significance. MLK Day is one that pays homage to Dr. King’s legacy, honors the fight for civil rights, and charges the public with action and change. Many regard it as a day on rather than a day off, which is demonstrated through parades, breakfasts, marches, community service efforts, and the like, all in the name of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we pause to honor and reflect upon the transformative work and service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., may we endeavor to first continually challenge self to take a hard look at how it is that we are serving others and then to rise to a new level. May we be intentional in our striving toward dismantling systems that were built to hinder progress and subjugate hope. May we be resolute in our demand for and movement toward justice.
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