Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” He lived his life by that statement, and so to celebrate and honor his memory and legacy, every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Americans across the country use their day off to perform acts of service to better their community.
On January 15, the Lily Reid Holt Memorial Chapel on the Lake Forest College campus was filled with students, faculty, staff and families waiting to take part in the campus’ annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration: One Better World. The program started with songs sung by The Voices of Innerpeace followed by opening remarks from the President of Lake Forest College, Stephen Schutt. He led the audience to think about the impact and movement Martin Luther King Jr. would have today. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, full-time volunteer that serves for a year with an organization fighting poverty in exchange for a modest living stipend and an education stipend, my volunteer experiences serve to partake in eliminating poverty and creating access to opportunities.
Keynote speaker, Vernon A. Wall, opened his speech with his favorite quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. His captivating speech took us through a journey of connecting the head to the heart. During this journey there were five points for the audience to consider, but there was one point that particularly stood out to me: to ‘be about “true service”’. This point is something important to me because this is my second year of AmeriCorps service and it made me reflect on how my work impacts not only my personal growth, but also the communities I work in. Doing “true service” is not just about going into a community, getting the job done, and then leaving; it is about getting to know the community you are involved in, engaging with people in the community and listening to their needs. However, at the same time, doing “true service” does not have to be one day. Every day there are opportunities to get involved. Vernon spoke about how “moments make movements” and everyone has a story. It is up to us to listen to each other’s stories and find your voice in the conversation. Dr. King asks us to be better people in the world. We have to think about our personal stories and why equity and inclusion are so important to us. Finally, Vernon emphasized to ‘Do Work’ because if we don’t get out there and do it, then who will.
After his powerful speech, five students from the university spoke about the Unity Candle Ceremony. The Unity Candle holder is a wooden plank with 12 white candles that represent community, amazing cultural diversity and its representation to humanity, allowing our spirits to be renewed. The students reminded us that if we don’t let the candle in our hearts go out, hope will never die. Overall, this was an inspiring celebration.
If you missed an opportunity to get involved, there are other ways you can do so. If you would like to volunteer with United Way of Lake County, here is a link to learn more about our on-going or one-time opportunities. Another resource is Find Help Lake County for different opportunities all around Lake County, IL. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA there is more information here.