Marin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday in January (and this year, falling on January 16), is a United States federal holiday honoring the birth of one of the great civil rights leaders of our time. People are asked to use their day off to volunteer in some way to honor Dr. King’s memory. We are challenged to make it a day “on” in service to others.
According to Dr. King, “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.”
Service is an important word around our house this year. My youngest is receiving Confirmation in a few months and is required to complete ten hours of service. (Not much, I know, but significant enough in a 12–year-old’s world.)
Each time we approach this important milestone in our family (this will be our third Confirmation), I excitedly research service projects in our community. I happily sign them up for anything and everything I can, often accompanying them when able. Through the years, we have cleaned up halls and the outside of lockers at a middle school in Philadelphia, organized and sorted clothing at a children’s non-profit organization, cooked meals for those in need and delivered poinsettias to home-bound parishioners.
On their own, my children have helped coach younger children’s sports teams, joined the Service Club at their school, and babysat (for their siblings and/or neighborhood kids) without pay – all in the spirit of giving something of themselves to make the world in which they live a better place.
This year, for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will be volunteering at our Church, collecting children’s clothing and toys and assembling bags of supplies for refuge children in the United States.
Service to others is always a rewarding experience for our family, and one I consistently vow to continue after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is over, or my children have completed their service hours for Confirmation.
Unfortunately, while I have good intentions, real life kicks in and side tracks us. Between school, work, homework, sports, activities and family obligations, service is often the first thing forgotten.
When this happens, I am often haunted by Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?”
This year, my goal is to be able to answer that question on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. I hope to think about service not just in January, or when my children receive a sacrament, but on a daily basis. I can offer more than one day a year to serving others. Can you?