January 15, 2018
By Jane Bishop Halteman

Martin Luther King photos found at site.gov addresses and thus in public domain

You can donate time, talent, or treasure to make a difference on Martin Luther King Day and all year long, according to a CNN article posted Sunday by Bethany Hines.

Deliver a meal, start a conversation, write a letter, the author proposes. Or build homes through Habitat for Humanity, educate others, work through a group like Doctors without Borders. Make a financial contribution or be kind where you are…“Give a compliment. Open the door for someone. Help mom cook dinner.”

Today, the third Monday in January, was proclaimed a national holiday in 1983 to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., though the day was not observed until 1986.  Not until the year 2000 did all states become actively involved in the celebration. 

Taking a serious look at service to make the world a better place for the poor and powerless is one of the best ways to honor the memory of King, a Baptist pastor, on this day and throughout the year, according to his late wife, Coretta Scott King. 

She says this on the meaning of the King holiday:  “On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance, and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.”

But the day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, she continues. “All across America on the holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutor those who can’t read, mentor at-risk youngsters, console the broken-hearted, and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.”

Two years ago, for the 2016 Glimpses of Healing and Hope MLK blog post, I gathered some King quotes and asked how Martin Luther King Day inspires us to make a difference. Where do we see the glimpses of healing and hope for which Martin Luther King yearned?  We are all familiar with some of his quotes (see below), but how are we getting involved with helping to bring his dream to some small fruition?

  • “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
  • “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”        
  • Said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery's busses: “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.  It is this love which will bring about miracles.”      

Given changes in national leadership a year ago and that leadership’s continued missteps on many fronts as illustrated again this past week in a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform, it is difficult to see the forward progress we’ve made on a national level in the last 12 months. For now, perhaps we need to turn for encouragement to our local communities and neighborhoods and congregations. Where are you encountering King's “hearts full of grace and souls generated by love?”

Kern Road guest speaker Cyneatha, former pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, IL, and currently program director of Mennonite Central Committee Great Lakes, told us during her Sunday sermon that “the best way to reach out to others is to know ourselves and what we have to offer….Know who you are and identify your capacities to help.”

Where do you see yourself plugging into King’s dream for racial justice and harmony? How can you put what life has taught you (“all that is your life is forming you,” Cyneatha said) into practice that will build justice and harmony where you live, where you work, where you are active in your community?