Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has always been a special day in my life. I can remember as a little girl in school how we used to always write essays about his life and his legacy, and our school would usually host a special program with music and dramatic readings and reflections on his contribution to the life of our nation. I was always the only Black child in my class until college, so I was especially proud of the one day that we celebrated the most famous Black person in American history.
For me, Dr. King stands as a living testimony to the fact that indeed one person really can make a difference in this world. In his case, it was a monumental difference. This year the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday seems to have taken on a special significance because if falls on the day before we inaugurate the first Black president in the history of the United States. President-Elect Barack Obmama is the living embodiment of Dr. King’s dream that we would be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
Now that we have a federal holiday set aside to honor the life of Dr. King, it has become the custom to use this as a day of service rather than being just another day off. This year in addition to joining in a community service project, people are being asked to skip lunch and donate the amount that they would have spent on lunch to a local food bank. Here’s a link to the national day of service project where you can sign up to participate in a service project in your area.
I am thrilled at the progress that we have made as a society in my lifetime. We still have far to go before we can enjoy true equality in this country, but we are taking important steps in the right direction. I hope that as he looks down on us from heaven, Dr. King is pleased with how we have handled his legacy. I am teaching my children that they can be and do and have whatever they want in life, and that the color of their skin or the fact that they were born a woman should have no bearing on their aspirations. My grandmother always said that our reach should exceed our grasp. And so I will ask you, what are you doing to honor the memory of one of our greatest heroes? How are your actions teaching those around you that we are all equal in God’s eyes? We don’t all have to live heroic lives and become martyrs for the causes that we believe in as Dr. King did, but each one of us has the power each day to take actions that will change the world for the better in small ways.