“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.
This world full of men. But some men stand out from others. Some men become beacons of courage. Some men devote their lives to brave deeds and noble acts in service to others. Some men show us what humans are capable of and what we are made for.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one such man, and today we honor his life and his legacy. King said that after his death:
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
He had acquired and accomplished many things in his life. He was Times’ Man of the Year in 1963. He was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Before he died, he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion from American Jewish Committee, the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood. He had published books and given important speeches. And yet none of these were worth mentioning at his funeral.
He wanted to be remembered for the things he gave. The time, the care, the attention, the support, the love he gave to others. All the things he accomplished in his life were as a result of his unswerving commitment to answer the question, “What are you doing for others?” The results were not important. It was the act of giving that mattered.
Why give? Give, because Martin Luther King Jr. thought that answering the question “What are you doing for others?” was the most important thing you could do. We set aside this day to honor him for being an example of what’s possible when life is lived in service to others, but we honor him everyday by living his example.