Honoring Martin Luther King’s legacy through volunteerism

ONE Faith Act Fellows Carolyn Worthge and Adeela Tajdar look back on Martin Luther King’s life and encourage ONE members to volunteer to honor his legacy.

If you ask most Americans about Martin Luther King Jr., they will highlight him as one of the finest Americans in the history of our country, remembering him as a man who stood courageously for racial equality and social justice. He overcame hardship, struggled for what he believed to be right and did everything he could to encourage and move his community and nation towards a better, more just future.

One of our favorite qualities of this inspirational leader is his dedication to building a movement that was inclusive, multi-faceted, and focused on a cause and calling, greater than its individual parts. In the fight for civil rights in the United States, King, a Southern Baptist preacher, befriended many important voices of faith, including Thich Nhat Hanh and Rabbi Joshua Heschel, and frequently cited Gandhi as an inspiration. He kept his mind and heart open when interacting with others, learning from the people he encountered, and incorporating these lessons and examples into his own work.

King heard the call to serve and better society within his own faith, and in responding, realized that this call was similar in other religious traditions. In order to effectively answer it, it was necessary for people of different faith backgrounds to engage with each other and act together. The quest for equality and social justice for all needed to incorporate all, regardless of race, religion, or background.

In 1963, he wrote from Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and months later, brought together people of conscience, across religions and races, to march together arm in arm, towards a dreamed-of better future for generations to come.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” What are the injustices our world is faced with today? Are we responding to the best of our ability? Are we engaging with those of different backgrounds, different religions, different mindsets, different political leanings, to work toward a greater good?

Each year, we have a chance to remember this great visionary through the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, which was declared a national day of service by Congress. ONE’s Faiths Act Fellows will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of MLK Jr. Day this Monday by joining with others in interfaith service at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC. Our event will include a variety of service projects, all aimed at providing support for those in need in our community. This project is just one of thousands that will take place across the country on Monday to remember the importance of working together to address the needs of our country and our world.

King made social justice a matter of faith and a matter of interfaith, with people joining together across lines of difference to form a united response. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is our chance to accept Dr. King’s call to do something for others and work for justice in our community. On Monday, January 16th, let us seize the opportunity to make this a day ON, rather than a day off to honor the struggle for social justice that Dr. King fought tirelessly for in his life.

To find a service opportunity near you, go to http://mlkday.gov/ .