Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is the third Monday in January. Although it’s a federal holiday and workers get off work, it was meant as a day of service in this country - volunteer service. It’s not a holiday where many people in this part of the world stop and consciously pay homage to the hard work he did. He would not have wanted that. He was a man of service. Like the holiday was meant to be: “A day ON, “ and not a day off.” It is a time to help others by using one's own talents to aid those in need.
Many schools and some churches have some type of service to recognize what the Rev. King was trying to do for people of color during the middle of the 20th century. In Tallahassee, Florida, there will be a reverse parade. The parade will be motionless but the viewers will be driving. Due to the pandemic, all the floats and exhibits will be parked alongside designated highways and the viewing will be done in individual vehicles. That way, his efforts will be remembered and the parade tradition (howbeit reversed) will continue.
Plans for events across the country have been curtailed but the need for volunteers and volunteer help has increased. Children are going without food, families have been evicted and many people are out of work at no fault of their own. Service is needed to gather and deliver foods to communities and shelter is needed for the homeless. And all that’s happening in the middle of this pandemic. But that is what MLK Day is about. It’s finding a way to help others and do it as often as possible, the best way you can.
When MLK was alive, he was not recognized as a hero among most communities. The ‘60s were tough years for civil rights and anyone who supported equality for every person of every color, faith and direction. White people who did support him were reviled and tormented, as were people of color. If you were to befriend a person of color, you became an outsider. There was no “reasoning” when so many people followed leaders who claimed one race was superior to another.
MLK begged for peaceful protest, hoping not to cause riots. He pressed for equal opportunities in education, housing, jobs and social interaction. It included the right to be called a “man” and not a boy. And it is the image of King as a man of character that now rests in our nation’s capitol.
The 30-foot granite sculpture resides on four acres west of the National Mall’s Potomac Park. The “Stone of Hope” was sculpted by Chinese artist Lei Yixin, who was discovered working in St. Paul, Minnesota. The stone was no easy choice. It had to be substantial and not easily deteriorated by pollution. Ultimately, Yixin decided that Minnesota granite would be best for the massive work. It bears a good likeness and possesses the quiet strength of the Civil Rights leader.
Perhaps with more compassion among our leaders, a better understanding of life, of self-control and responsibility, equality will come about without more lives lost. In the meantime, MLK’s day on can be one day we set aside to help where volunteers are needed in our community.
If anyone has an item for this column, please contact Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.