January is often synonymous with resolutions and resetting. Less commonly observed is January’s relationship to service. Following suit is February — Black History Month — the annual observance of the multitudinous African-American contributions to American culture. Together, the first months of the year provide a great opportunity for considering our own relationships to history and serving our community.
In 1994, President Clinton announced each Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be recognized as a federal holiday. Since then, MLK Day has been celebrated as the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service. The goal of prescribing “service” to memorialize King maintains the function of encouraging all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
In a recent blog post from Heather Cox Richardson, she encouraged us to shirk the idea that there are no heroes left in modern society. She posts instead that “... [heroes] are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.” Like Dr. King. Rosa Parks. Sitting Bull. Anne Frank.
And isn't it also the friend that shows up even when you don't ask? For the stranger who lends a helping hand? At its most essential, service is simply partaking in actions which recognize and honor the humanity of others. It’s being, as all worldly wisdoms ascribe, a good neighbor.
In this new year, as you think about modes and methods of self-improvement, might you consider how conducting everyday forms of generosity has the possibility of changing your own life and someone else's. After all, worth bearing in mind is this wisdom imparted to us by Louisville's own Muhammad Ali:
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."