Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Posted on January 22, 2008 by ELCA World Hunger

Did you observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week? If so, what did you do? Do you have an annual ritual around it?

To be entirely honest, its greatest significance to me has usually been that it’s a day off of work. And mostly, it hasn’t even been that. Some years, I’ve barely registered that it’s a holiday. But this year is different. I’d like to say the change is due to some great personal awakening, but mostly it’s because of my job. By its nature, working to end world hunger requires daily recognition of social injustice. A side effect of my job that I both appreciate and resent is that it’s been impossible to work in this environment and NOT become more aware of inequality and my role in it.

Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of only four individuals to have a U.S. federal holiday in his honor? (According to Wikipedia. Points if you can name the other three without looking!) Some of the well-known actions that earned King such status include public speaking, writing, organizing others to stand behind the cause, and employing peaceful activism. His work laid the groundwork for permanent change in laws: the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Right Act. But before he got a holiday, he got jail time, FBI surveillance, a house bombing, and, of course, death.

Which brings me back to my own observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Clearly I’m supposed to recognize the importance of this man. Should I try to be like him? I have absolutely no interest in going to jail or being watched by authorities. But I do have an interest in ending hunger. And ending hunger requires confronting injustice. And confronting injustice most likely requires me to speak out, write, and stand with others behind the cause – peacefully, of course. So this year, for me, the day was about honestly considering what I’m able and willing to do to achieve social justice. I’m not totally sure of the answer, and I’m no Martin Luther King. But I can call a politician, write a letter to the editor, or donate money. Are things on this scale enough? I generally believe that something is better than nothing, and if everyone does a little, big changes are possible. But sometimes I wonder if I’m only justifying my comfort zone. Still, this smaller, more personal scale of action is where I find myself right now. I’ll work on building from here. And I’ll continue to wonder if the more courageous of you are scoffing at me as you read this from your jail cell.

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2 Responses to 'Martin Luther King Jr. Day'

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  1. Anonymous said,

    on January 22nd, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Congratulations on the new blog site!

    Would it be possible in the next few days, to describe how you might envision this blog being used and also (for us pre-modern types) how the blog works e.g. how to use comments, who can post initially, how topics are selected etc.

    Thanks again for setting up Hunger Rumblings.

    Mark Goetz, Montana

  2. Nancy Michaelis said,

    on January 23rd, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks for the questions, Mark!

    The only folks who can post to the blog are the ELCA World Hunger staff in Chicago who have been set up as authors. But your comments – and those of anyone else in the world! – are welcome anytime through the comment function, just as you’ve done. Topics will be selected by the authors – what’s on their minds, what’s going on in the world, and whatever they’ve run across that seems worth sharing. I hope you’ll stick with us – it will be the best answer to your questions about the blog’s purpose and use.

    Thanks again, Nancy