I woke up this morning reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr. The U2 song MLK was playing in my head as I thought about the great man and what his legacy means to me. I do not remember learning about him in school, though we must have studied the Civil Rights movement. It is as if I just always knew of his work and what he stood for.
I was three when King was assassinated, so perhaps this is when I first heard about him. Growing up in the North the Civil Rights movement was something that seemed to happen in another world. We did not have forced segregation, but looking back on my childhood, we may have had social segregation. I did not grow up in a racist household, but now I realize my home town was very white.
It was not until college did I learn the full story of the Civil Rights movement and King’s work. I learned of Kennedy’s hesitation to act even as the country’s attitude started to change and that it was President Johnson that finally pushed for the voting legislation. The most important lesson I learned about King was that he was a big advocate for all those who faced oppression, regardless of color. He was working on standing with striking garbage workers when he was gunned down.
When MLK day was made into a nation holiday in 1986 most Americans viewed it as just another day off. Today there is a push for community service, to not only celebrate the day, but celebrate it in the spirit of King. For many of us this is not easy, either we don’t know how to participate or have the time, between work and family responsibilities overwhelming us. I am using the day to get caught up on homework. As I reflected on King’s work, I also wondered if there wasn’t something I could do, then it hit me, I could do my part in making a difference in someone’s else’s life. I could donate to charity or even better, loan money to a person in need in order to lift that person up out of poverty, something near and dear to King’s heart.
Kiva is a wonderful nonprofit organization that matches donors with those in need. Your $25.00 loan is added to other’s people’s money to help someone out of poverty by allowing them to start a business or buy much needed material for an existing one. Today I gave money to a vegetable farmer in Eastern Europe hoping to buy enough seeds to expand his business. This is different from just giving to charity, your loan is repaid so you can turn around and help someone else, again and again.
I always prefer to help specific people, rather than a big organization yet I know big charities can do great things. This is why I was excited to learn about the K.I.N.D (kids in need of a desk) fund, started by UNICEF and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. For only $45.00 you can make a difference to a Malawi student. The schools in Malawi are so poor they cannot afford desks. Try to imagine sitting on a dirt floor for hours, while trying to concentrate on school. Your $45.00 will provide not only a desk/chair for two students; you are helping a small local carpenter who provides the desks. Imagine, not only does your money get a child off a cold dirty floor, it also allows a small business hire more workers. How awesome is that?
For those looking to help closer to home, drop of some staples at a local food bank. Some grocery stores have prepackaged bags for sale that go directly to local needy families. Participate in a clothing drive. Those of us with kids know all too well they grow out of coats long before the coats are worn out. Giving to a clothing drive ensures the cloths go to a child in need. Giving to Goodwill is nice, but let’s face it, often people who can afford new, often like finding a “bargain” forgetting about those rely solely on thrift stores.
So on this day what will you do? What do you do year round? If you have a favorite charity or local community activities share it with us. I would love to hear from you.
For more on Dr. King, here is a link to the Nobel Prize website. Here you will find a nice bio on his work.