A question for all Americans out there: how did you spend your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you catch any of the Inauguration of President Obama? Did you give any thought to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was also being commemorated on this day? Monday, January 21 offered America a full plate of patriotism this year for sure.
As if these solemn events were not enough to think about, there’s the growing movement to volunteer for a day of service on MLK Day. So you have opportunities to do good and to make the holiday about more than sleeping and shopping. It’s time to regard our neighbor unselfishly and to live consistently with our prayer to be better. (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
I decided that this day I would step out from my usual church work to reach a wider world, hoping to make a difference in my community. I’d been feeling stale about my activities and yearning for new friendships. So I signed up at my local Alexander YMCA as a Stop Hunger Now volunteer. I was to assemble food packets which would travel to Uganda and Haiti, among other needy places. It was fascinating to see what went into the packets (rice and dried veggies, among other non-perishables) and then to hear how many millions had benefited from this charitable work. On this day alone, volunteers would pack 10,000 meals.T
The day was a great success. In fact, because so many more kids and adults showed up to help than the 60 required, the organizers assigned some of us “leftovers” to pick up outside litter. We were to fan out to the several parking lots of the Y as well as some neighboring streets.
Equipped with bags and gloves, we set forth with teammates who started as strangers and ended up as friends. My two teammates were wonderful women and we discovered we had much in common. Our faiths were different in that one of us was Jewish, one a former Catholic who’d become a Presbyterian, and one a Christian Scientist—me. But our values were the same and we loved getting to know each other. I quickly made new friends, and a possible lunch date to boot. All this, over trash!
I feel very full now. I’m so full of gratitude that any trace of emptiness and ennui are gone.
I began this modest project hoping to feed the hungry and heal the hearts of others– those who needed nourishment and care because they had so little of either. But now I’m not sure whose hunger was fed, and whose heart was healed. I don’t think it matters.
*Title from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy