Last fall, our Executive Director Dave Landymore asked a group of elementary school kids to greet the person next to them, shake hands, and introduce themselves. He taught them a lesson about community. The unfortunate thing about that is I think those children understood the concept better than most of today’s adults. We are losing our sense of community in this country.
Yet, there are micro-communities stirring with positivity if you keep your eyes open for them. In the past ten years I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve lived in many places. And despite the undeniable stereotypes of Baltimore City, there is no place I’ve seen with more positivity, momentum, and community. Our MLK Day event is about highlighting that. We will not only ask you to join our mission, but we will expose you to the sense of community that has manifested itself in the partnering of diverse groups, organizations, and individuals all moving together in positivity. It is truly something unique, and something you ought not miss out on.
My favorite quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Those words could not be any more relevant in today’s world of political divisiveness and when the disparity between the rich and poor has never been greater. But what bothers me the most is that our culture has grown accustomed to sitting around waiting for the next politician to solve our problems. We blame the mayor, the governor, or the president. There is one president. There are 300 million of us and it’s pretty difficult to point fingers if we are sitting on our hands. Blame is just more darkness when what we need is light.
So I come to you today with a question. How long are we going to wait, Baltimore? America? How long before the people down the street suffering in poverty become more important to us than our fantasy football teams? How long before a kid trying to learn to read in the dark because there’s no electricity is more important than your child’s 16th XBOX game? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of waiting. We have the skills, ability, and resources to fix these problems now. And if we don’t, it’s a sad world that we live in. So what’s it going to be? What the (insert your favorite expletive) are we waiting for?
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day about finances and retirement. He asked “How much are you contributing to your 401k or retirement plan?” His look of surprise was accompanied by a smirk when I told him I didn’t have one. He was implying that I was being foolish for giving to charity before “securing my future.” I did not smirk back, but in my mind he was the one that didn’t get it. You see, a world where so many struggle just to eat, and to get an education, and opportunity, is not a world worth retiring in. What kind of peace would you have? I doubt Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have stepped aside to bask in his accomplishments because he’d reached retirement age. I’m not suggesting you close your retirement accounts, of course. I’m just trying to make a broader point that the things you’ve been told are important may not be what brings you happiness in the end. Your happiness is forever linked to the well-being of others. Don’t forget that.
Many of you are already great civic leaders and community servants. We applaud you. Keep it up. For those of you who have not found your niche yet — we need you. This MLK Day, we’re going to ask you to do some small things. It may be hard to see their importance. But if you commit and serve with us consistently, you’ll begin to see how things add up. So is this going to be your year or not? Is this when you finally turn the corner and dedicate yourself to something more meaningful than your 401k, your favorite TV show, or happy hour? (And trust me, I love happy hour.)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have a magic wand. He grinded it out everyday building alliances, doing the right thing, and marching forward. We can be more like him, starting now. January 21st is a big day for us, and we have a tool with your name on it. It might be a shovel or it might be an axe. You can RSVP now on our Facebook page and you can pre-register here.