What Are You Doing For Others? The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How are you planning to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King on his holiday?  Do you have any special plans?  Attending a parade, perhaps? Reading about and reflecting on his life?  Are you and your family attending a special celebration?  My husband and I have this conversation every year – how do we want to commemorate the King holiday with our family?  I don’t have to go into a lengthy conversation of who Dr. King was or why I think his life and work was so important to American society?  Or, why his dream for this nation is vital to the success of the United States on a global stage?  Surely you can see how this man embodied the spirit of a conqueror who dared to step outside the lines prescribed to him, and his people, by a government and society mired in hate?  He, and others like him, risked their lives (which he ultimately lost) because they believed that we, as a nation, could be better.  No, I don’t have to tell you all of that because you know it already, right?   However, I am worried that this holiday established for a most deserving man is becoming just another day off for most of us without causing any real reflection on just how it came to be in the first place and where we should be headed.

Before I became a stay-at-home-mom, I always chose to work on the King holiday.  It seemed a fitting tribute to a man who worked so hard to open employment opportunities for African-Americans  – back when we were known as “colored”.   In fact, he was in Memphis in support of the Black sanitary public works employees who were striking for higher wages and better treatment when he was assassinated.  With that in mind, somehow staying at home and watching daytime television or going to the mall  doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to honor this man and his work.  In order to determine what really would promote Dr. King’s dream, I guess it would be best to learn from his words.

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While it is true that Dr. King’s work gained him some personal notoriety, and some of the trappings that can come with it, the basis of his work was for the betterment of others.  He did what he did to advance an entire group of people.  And not just Black people, his focus was on the poor and disenfranchised whomever they may be.  He was a servant of the people and therein lies the key to honoring his legacy.  Personally, I think that it is a beautiful thing that the day that we remember Dr. King has been designated a National Day of Service.  There are so many opportunities in your community to help one another and they can extend far beyond just one day or  a particular event.  Food banks, homeless shelters, community gardens and mentoring programs are just a few ways in which you can get (and stay) involved.  More importantly, it is a great way to inform your children not only about Dr. King, but also the need for each of us to care for one another.   Teaching children how to be benevolent is one of the most important lessons that you will ever teach them.  And, miraculously, no matter how bad our own personal situation is, helping someone else reminds us that things can always be worse.  Helping makes you feel good and feeling good brings hope.  That’s what each and every one of us is here for – to help and to bring hope.

Since my girls are still fairly young, we will be visiting and donating to a local food pantry.  They have no concept of what it means to be without food and I really need them to know that there are people in this world, living not too far from them that go to bed hungry.  I want them to know that they have to care for mankind  and help those who are in need.    That is really the legacy of Dr. King and that’s how I want to remember him.

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