A Day of Service-Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018

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Today has been designated as a Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Although it is a Federal holiday and many public places are closed in honor of this day, those who conceived this holiday wanted it not to be a DAY OFF, but rather a DAY ON.  The framers of the idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, wanted it to be a day of action that brings us all closer to what Dr. King referred to as the “beloved community”.  In Dr. King’s vision, the beloved community was a place of reconciliation and redemption. To quote Dr. King Jr, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.  It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends.  The type of love that I stress here is not eros, a sort of aesthetic or romantic love; not philia, a sort of reciprocal love between personal friends; but it is agape which is understanding goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return…..”

As we know, Dr. King believed that racial discrimination was a barrier to the beloved community, so he stood up against discrimination and he stood up for equality and opportunity for all citizens.  As I have studied the work of Dr. King, I note that he not only saw the harm that racial inequality brought to the human condition, he also spoke often of income disparity as another barrier to his beloved community.  He also spoke often of injustice, especially against marginalized persons as a barrier to the beloved community.  The beloved community is a place of opportunity, justice for all and love of our fellow citizens. 

As people with intellectual and developmental disabilities fight to take their rightful place in our communities, the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resonates clearly.  Often, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are seen as less valuable, quality is measured differently for persons with disabilities than citizens without disabilities.  There are still laws on the books allowing for people with disabilities to be paid less than the federally mandated minimum wage.  A disproportionate percentage of individuals with Fetal Alcohol syndrome (a specific developmental disability) are in jail or prison at any given time.  There is so much to be done in our country to get to that beloved community.

That brings us back to a Day of Service.  The idea of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with a day of service is a step toward the beloved community.  If we each do one thing today that builds someone else up, that makes our part of the world a little more welcoming, a little more kind, then we are bringing our society a little closer to being a place where we can truly say with confidence that we live in a community where there is liberty and justice for all.  I encourage our members and readers to take time today to serve.

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