Monday, the official observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, is an unusual holiday. If you're among the Americans lucky enough to get the day off, you are asked to make it a day "on," by volunteering to do some good work in your community. This call to service, officially endorsed by Congress in 1994, is a great way to honor the values and vision that The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. offered the nation.
Famed for leading the nation's civil rights struggle through nonviolent means, King also cast a keen eye toward other injustice and inequality in our land of plenty.
King said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"
Monday, in his honor, we're asked to lift our sights beyond our immediate circle of family and friends, and help contribute to something larger than our own lives.
Some Alaska community service projects can be found on the national day of service Web site, www.mlkday.gov/. Other possibilities include making a meal or delivering supplies to the soup kitchen at Bean's Cafe, Brother Francis Shelter, Safe Harbor or the Anchorage Rescue Mission.
Monday's remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. challenges us to think more broadly about our community and our country's good fortune and to remember that not everyone is able to share in it. For example, we are alone among industrialized nations in leaving millions of our citizens without health coverage.
Alaskans know well the importance of helping others. Hardy and resourceful Native peoples survived harsh conditions for millennia through cooperation and sharing. Proudly self-reliant pioneers routinely lent help to neighbors in need. Those traditions live on in today's Alaska, as in United Way of Anchorage's Day of Caring each September.
Monday's day of service is a chance to uphold those traditions and show that caring Alaska spirit by giving something back to our community.
BOTTOM LINE: Honor Dr. King's legacy with a day of service Monday.