Just why did I drive almost 300 miles to a crime-ridden, run-down neighborhood called Oliver in Baltimore on MLK Day in 2012 to pick up trash in the freezing cold? Why did I go back in 2013? And why will I be there again on MLK Day 2014?
Anyone who knows me well knows I intensely dislike being cold, and physical labor can be quite a challenge for me. So it’s safe to say that I was intrigued enough at the initial invitation in 2012 to disregard my personal comfort. And clearly something big keeps me going back. The reason I go to The 6th Branch MLK Day events is two-fold: Hope and Love. Sounds sappy, but it’s true and I’m not ashamed to say it. That first cold day in 2012 was the beginning of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in my own life (I had been in a serious accident in 2009 and had become very depressed). What I saw in Oliver was a community in serious trouble. And I found a diverse group of people whose mission was (and is) to change that. The fact that they had such tremendous hope in such hopeless circumstances inspired me. They didn’t just talk about loving thy neighbor- they stepped up to DO it.
I’ve always had the desire to be a part of something larger than myself and my own little corner of the world. Growing up in the 60’s, I admired people like Dr. Martin Luther King, who had a vision of a better world and took action to make positive change. As the years passed though, I grew somewhat cynical about America. The news seemed mostly bad and it appeared that no effort of mine was going to make a positive impact. The 6th Branch changed my perspective that MLK Day in 2012.
I have no outstanding talents. I am older than most 6th Branch volunteers. I have physical limitations. But none of that mattered on MLK Day. I was warmly welcomed. If I could bring love and a willingness to put that love into action, that’s all that was needed on my part. The progress that has been made since then in Oliver is nothing short of astounding and I am so very proud to be a small part of it.
So, if you’ve ever felt discouraged about humanity, ever felt like what you do can’t possibly make a difference, ever felt like you can’t get past your own problems, come out on MLK Day 2014. Love your neighbor — the neighbor you may not even meet. You’ll be amazed at how it changes your view of life.
We are love in action. Join us!