Make MLK Day a true Martin Luther King Jr. holiday


Tucker Anderson, Staff Writer

At the risk of sounding cliche, it’s a day that will forever be remembered in history. 

Jan. 15, 1929 was the day that Michael Luther King Jr., later the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was born. A little more than two and a half decades later, it was this man – a 26-year-old Baptist minister – who first garnered attention for his heartfelt support of a Mrs. Rosa Parks and his resulting call for a Montgomery bus boycott. January 15 launched the life of one of the most beloved figures in 250 years of America, a figure that would show America just how far love and persistence can go. 

Of course, I have no need to chronicle the life of this person.  MLK is known to every person and their brother, and if you haven’t heard of King Jr., well, Jan. 15 is an excellent day to really understand what the man was all about. 

No, teaching a history lesson about the most famous face of the Civil Rights movement is not my concern. Instead, I’d like to consider the topic of how to properly carry on his legacy. 

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” He believed that the surest way to institute change was by learning to get along with the people around us, by learning how to love deeply and easily, and he devoted his life to that cause, ensuring that all were welcome in his camp. 

It is for this reason that, on Jan. 20, 1983,  President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation making the third Monday of every January a federal holiday, dubbed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Perhaps there’s no better day, then, to perform an act of service than on MLK day. You could say it’s a continuation of King, a way to better the world in the same fashion that America’s favorite Baptist minister did. 

So without further ado, here are a few ideas on ways to serve in the spirit of King Jr. 

  1. Take a parent to Baskin Robbins. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I think that my strong determination for justice comes from the very strong, dynamic personality of my father… The thing that I admire most about my dad is his genuine Christian character. He is a man of real integrity, deeply committed to moral and ethical principles.” If there’s one thing we all do a little too much, it’s taking family for granted, especially those from whom we gained our livelihoods. So, like King Jr., take an opportunity to celebrate those who came before you by sharing a Sundae and a little time.
  2. Donate to a charity or a non-profit organization. Martin Luther King Jr. realized from an early age that his middle-class upbringing was much superior to the kind of life that the majority of other African Americans led. Thus, his dedication to the African American cause arose in large part from his desire to help others reach the kind of stability that he’d been blessed with his entire life. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King Jr. enthused, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” This weekend, take an opportunity to aid one of our brothers and sisters who are struggling to feed themselves, or to clothe themselves, or to get an education. It doesn’t have to be much — perhaps a small monetary donation, or delivering a jacket to a coat drive, or setting aside canned goods for a food drive. In any case, it’s doing something, and the concept of doing something is the cause that MLK gave his life for.
  3. Write a note to your grandparents. MLK once wrote, “My father is a preacher, my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my Daddy’s brother is a preacher.” Throughout his life, Martin Luther King Jr. gave clear indication that he attributed much of what he was and what he became to his predecessors. This MLK day, then, let’s not forget those from whom we descend. Let’s be honest — how long will a letter take to write? Fifteen minutes? Thirty minutes if you’ve really got a lot to say? A half an hour of your day could make your grandparent’s entire one. 
  4. Swing by a friend’s house with a plate of homemade cookies. One of my personal favorite MLK quotes is “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” To me, it perfectly encapsulates Martin Luther King Jr.’s mission, to always be knee-deep in the service of others. And the best thing about service is that oftentimes it doesn’t have to be huge. So a plate of homemade cookies? Perhaps it’ll be the perfect Martin Luther King Day treat. 

So there you have it – four ways to give MLK his day. If you find yourself with extra time this Jan. 17, see if you can’t do something to make somebody else smile. It’ll be worth the effort — I can guarantee.