There’s a surprising lack of attention paid to Dr. King today. Although, I will admit that I’m currently on the East coast, and 8:00 here is 5:00 on the other side of America and they’re probably asleep.Â No judgment.Â Personally, I’ve always thought Martin Luther King Jr.Â Day is somewhat similar to Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving in that you shouldn’t reserve your feelings or compassion for one day.Â The reality of the Dr. King, and all of the Civil Rights foot soldiers, is that progress didn’t come in one day.Â Take the bus boycotts for instance,Â change didn’t come two days after the decision to walk instead of ride the buses.Â It took days that morphed into weeks that morphed into months – 13 in fact.Â I say all that to say that service to your community and to justice is something that should be done every day, not simply January 16.
One of my favorite stories involving Dr. King is his conversation with Nichelle Nichols, although most people know her as Lieutenant Uhura or the Star Trek The Original Series.Â Up until a few years ago, only a few people knew that Nichols was ready to quit the show after the first season. She was at an NAACP event, one evening and was told someone wanted to meet her.Â That someone was Dr. King who insisted that he was her biggest fan and when she told him that was leaving the show he responded saying that Nichols had the first, nonstereotypical role for African Americans, â€œ… a role with honor, dignity and intelligence.â€Â He continued, â€œYou simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we’d see this on TV.â€Â Nichols said that until that moment she’d never saw Uhura as anything more than a character.Â “I certainly wasn’t a pioneer then in my mind,” she said. “I was just a young woman and it was a wonderful opportunity to be on television.â€
“You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King Jr.
What I love about this story, is not only that Dr. King fought for Civil Rights and Star Trek, but that he pointed out to Nichols that she was able to make a change and impact for Black Americans simply by doing what she was good at and something that she loved. Let’s be real here, not all of us are going to be movie stars or the faces of social revolutions but the greatness displayed by Dr. King, the greatness that we honor today is beyond the reach of no one.Â â€œEverybody can be great,â€ he said, â€œbecause 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.”Â Therefore, my suggestion is: honor Dr. King and his work, by letting today be the beginning of a lifetime of service to your proverbial neighbor.Â It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be what everyone else is doing, it just has to be done out of love. Be persistent.Â Be creative.Â Be great.
For service ideas visit the official Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service website at http://www.mlkdayofservice.org.