I am writing this on Martin Luther King Day, a federally-recognized, national holiday most often observed through participation in volunteer community service activities. Honoring the legacy of Dr. King on January 16th did not come easily in our country. Ironically, the Congressional legislation making this holiday experienced twists and turns that mirrored the current path to social and economic justice sought by so many. On this day, electronic and print media are laden with photographs, videos, speeches and quotes. Most haunting are the many comparisons to King’s quest for equity for all people, to the nation’s current state of affairs. What would Martin Luther King have said about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 99 percent, we wonder?
My young daughter and her friend are volunteering through her school, making blankets, hats and gloves for the homeless. Outside, it is 22 degrees. Inside, the King legacy is reinforced as children craft the potential for human warmth with fleece and scissors. Children differing in race, ethnicity, religious backgrounds and family configurations, work side-by-side. Both the activity and the context of the schools chosen service activity illustrate progress, yet paradoxically homelessness is on the rise. Later, we will read text and watch videos and talk more about the Dream we share and work for. King’s acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize is an incredible read.
I have commented in other blog entries that I am not usually one for awareness days (or months, for that matter). There is just something about “one day of service” that leaves me wanting for more - more conversation, more volunteering, more shared learning. True, much of what happens on this Day of Service will spill over. New blankets face a future of use. New relationships are formed and new viewpoints are exchanged. All good, but I am nonetheless impatient with short-term solutions for deep, complex problems. I am heartened to be at Drexel where civic engagement is so highly valued, and honored to be at our School of Public Health where education, research and service work is not bound by calendar. Still, it’s hard not to ponder: If every day were Martin Luther King Day, would we collectively hurtle at warp speed to a better world?