As we prepare to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his commitment to service, his call for us to serve one another, especially the less fortunate among us. He said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” A powerful question, for sure. I would add, “Why are you here? What for?”
I believe that we are here to be the best that we can be and to support others so they, too, can be the best that they can be. We are here to give our unique contributions to the world and to support others so they, too, can give their unique contributions to the world. We are here to help one another, and the way that we do this is through altruistic service.
Dr. King dreamed of a just and peaceful society. He called it the Beloved Community.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. (*)
To believe that the self-serving, selfish, savage, each-man-for-himself mentality that currently prevails in world can bring about the Beloved Community that Dr. King called us to create is a baseless and unsustainable belief. In order for the Beloved Community to become a reality, we need to practice solidarity. We need to serve one another. We need to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Unfortunately, we have drifted away from the goal of bringing the Beloved Community into existence.
We need to reflect on what government is, and how it has to work in order to produce the kind of just society we want to live in. Government is a big public service agency and those who work there are public servants. In the final analysis, this agency that we, the people, have created exists to serve all of us, the public, and not to self-serve those who happen to be there, and those who get what they want through bribery and corruption. Think of the government as a service organization, one of those we give donations to, and from which we expect the completion of certain tasks and the delivery of certain goods and services. We have been giving our donations (not voluntary, but obligatory donations collected through taxes) to this agency, and we must demand it to work to create the society we want: King’s Beloved Community.
Some may say that King’s vision is impossible to accomplish, but the truth is that we have an abundance of resources to take good care of everyone. We have all the resources we need to eradicate homelessness and hunger. We have all that is necessary to support each other’s development through education and health care.
President Lincoln spoke of the kind of government we all want, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Let us hope that we can bring about a government that is really of all people, by all people, and for all people. This is the kind of government that “shall not perish from the earth.”
I encourage you to listen to Dr. King’s reminder that everybody can serve.
“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s the new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the sermon titled, “The Drum Major Instinct,” preached by Dr. King on February 4, 1968
(*) This description of the Beloved Community comes from The King Center website at http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy
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