Monday, January 19, 2009

An MLK Day to Believe In

Have you ever wondered what an Abraham Lincoln…a John Kennedy…a Martin Luther King…would have thought about life in America in the year 2009?

What would Dr. King have thought about a National day of observance of his birthday…on the Monday following? What would Dr. King make of what MLK Day has become, with furniture stores prominently using his name as an incentive to buy rooms-full of furniture. (Did you know you could furnish an entire house for just $4,999.99 today?)

And could someone please explain to me, in a calm and rational manner, why we need two MLK Parades in Houston? What would Dr. King have to say to the MLK Parade Foundation and the Black Heritage Society, which have been duking it out for years with competing parades? Get your acts together, perhaps?

What are these two groups trying to prove--one is blacker than the other? One has a better dream than the other? Reading back through Dr. King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, I think the theme was inclusiveness. You people have missed the boat.

Today’s Martin Luther King Day is evolving…it’s supposed to be a day of community service…for those of you who have the day off. Not a day off to shop for furniture. As Dr. King once said—“the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.”

Many of us are making an uncomfortable transition from the good times of the past two decades, to times of challenge. How we respond…how we react…how we survive will define our character. And our response as a nation to the changes that are about to take place will also define us as a society.

Elizabeth Rigby wrote a thought-provoking editorial in today’s Houston Chronicle, in which she admits that in years past she’s done nothing special on MLK Day because nothing seemed important enough, significant enough, to have made a difference…and how that kind of thinking is absurd.

Since when did anything any of us did not matter in some way? Just because your project doesn’t make the evening news doesn’t mean it isn’t significant to someone. If to no one else, your act of kindness, charity, community service—what ever you want to call it—is quite significant to the person on the receiving end of your activity.

Dr. King once noted that the most persistent, urgent question of life is “what are you doing for others?” We are all put on this planet to help one another. Judging by all the people here for the ride, there’s a lot of helping to be done.

If you’re having a hard time finding someone or some thing that is worthy of your time, check out for a few ideas.

One caveat—read through the entries carefully. The Palestinian Pitty Party—“an event to condemn Jews for protecting themselves from Arab aggression,” reads the online description—hardly qualifies as a Martin Luther King-inspired form of community service.

There also seem to be a lot of bars advertising "viewing parties" for the inauguration; ostensibly to provide television access for the event...but you can bet there'll be plenty of adult beverage sales taking place, too. Again, my filter would discard these into the same category as MLK Day furniture sales…and begs the question: Who is editing the entries for alleged “service events” on the usa-service website?

But you will find projects for helping the homeless—like making sandwiches—literacy projects for helping teach kids and adults to read, or an ACORN initiative for helping neighbors who might be in danger of losing their homes.

It’s a big country.
Small things matter.
The future of our country begins today with each one of us.

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