Your View: Guest Column - What are you doing for others today?
BY REV. JOE BLOSSER
Today more than 500 High Point University students, faculty, staff, and their families are volunteering in the High Point community in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are creating sustainable community gardens, repainting schools, building shelves for the Macedonia Family Resource Center, repainting and landscaping at West End Ministries, cleaning and serving meals at Open Door Ministries, packaging some 50,000 Stop Hunger Now meals, reading with children, hosting a sports camp at the Hartley YMCA, and much more. While every year the university community volunteers over 100,000 hours in our community, the service we perform today is special. It is special because we do it in honor of Dr. King and his legacy.
In 1994, Congress designated this federal holiday as a national day of service: “a day on, not a day off.” So instead of sitting at home, we are out building partnerships and working on sustainable solutions to our community’s challenges. Service to one’s community is essential to building up the “beloved community” about which Dr. King spoke. But service alone is not enough. Dr. King demanded not charity, but justice.
So today before we go out and serve, we are going to worship. We are going to lift up our hearts and voices to God in prayer and praise because for Dr. King — and many of us — our motivation to serve arises out of our faith in God. Though MLK Day is a secular holiday, we must never forget that Dr. King was both an activist and a preacher. His activism was rooted in faith – not a narrow, exclusive faith – but a faith that embraced people from all walks of life. And as we serve, we are going to meet people we’ve never met before.
We are going to make connections and friendships. Service is in some ways only the pre-text for building the kind of relationships on which the beloved community depends. Service is important, but Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, not merely help them out. And when our service is over, we will break bread together and reflect on what we did, what we left undone, and what more must be done.
No amount of service can heal the wounds that scar our city. No gardening or landscaping, cleaning or meal preparation will bring us all the way to the mountaintop of which Dr. King spoke. But it’s not a bad place to start. I hope you will join us today or someday soon. I hope you will take time to serve.
But do more than that. I hope you will connect your service with your faith – whatever faith that may be. And I hope that you will realize that the friendships you make while serving bring you closer to the mountaintop than even the service itself. Service alone will not bring about justice, but it can alleviate suffering and it can forge the partnerships we’ll need to climb the mountain together.
The Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser is Robert G. Culp Jr. director of service learning and an assistant professor of religion and philosophy at High Point University.