As you may know, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States. This year, BB and I were lucky enough to take part in our community’s MLK Day of Service. It was a really rewarding experience, and I wanted to share thoughts on the day.
- One of our local councilmen organized the event. There were 12 different activities that we could sign up for, including: working at the local animal shelter, making cards for servicemen and the students at Sandy Hook, organizing the local food bank pantry, and teaching Zumba to seniors. Of course, we signed up for one of the few outdoor activities, which made me wish that perhaps MLK’s holiday could be moved to a warmer month.
- When we registered, everyone got a t-shirt. They were out of kid’s sizes and only had adult L and XL sizes. The lady doing the registration literally took the shirt off her back (a medium) to give to BB. She was wearing a flesh-colored tank top underneath and everyone started hooting and cheering—except for BB, who was scandalized to get “a used t-shirt that some lady already wore.”
- A few older African-American women got up to speak and became very emotional recalling the civil rights struggles that they had participated in during the 1960s. One woman recalled a time when she was asked to leave a church because it wasn’t “for colored people.” That woman is now a preacher and just preached a sermon in that church a few weeks ago. It was emotional to see hear these women and see the depth of emotion that Dr. King and the civil rights struggle evokes. It made me glad for BB to hear these stories and learn a bit about this part of our country’s history.
- Our mayor was there. Guess what his last name is? Mayer. This makes him Mayor Mayer. It is impossible not to giggle at this. It reminded me of Major Major Major from Catch-22.
- Our service project was cleaning up the local war memorial in the park. (BB thought we were cleaning up trash from the park and kept saying “I hope I get one of those sticks with the needles at the end.”) Unfortunately for him, the project involved raking leaves, pulling weeds and only doing minor trash pick-up (and not with “needle sticks”). At the end, the group leader asked BB to play on all the playground equipment to “check it for safety” as the last part of his project. Needless to say, BB was thrilled to comply.
- It felt really good to work with different members of our community—including some older African-American veterans who brought the group together and took a special liking to BB. At one point, a few of us adults were talking about how many kids today (including my son) are really growing up to be “color blind” in many ways. I love that when my son describes someone’s physical appearance, he describes their hair, eye color and clothing before mentioning their skin color. I love that he lives in a neighborhood where children of all races and ethnicities play together. I love that he finds it normal to live in a fully integrated neighborhood where half the folks on our block have a different skin color from his—and he doesn’t find that unusual or odd. I know there is still racism and inequality in our country, but today was a wonderful reminder of the many strides that have been made. It felt good to be a part of our community and work together to accomplish a positive goal. I think Dr. King would be thrilled to see that his holiday is about something other than a “day off” from school or work.