“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t [need] a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
After the earthquake of 2010, a group of inner-city moms traveled to serve in Haiti. In the States, these women struggled to manage the chaos of their own families, resulting from violence. Even so, amidst the greater devastation of Haiti, they found strength.
The ah-ha moment was not, “My life is great compared to this.” That’s echoed by every middle schooler who ever went on a mission trip. Instead, these women witnessed a picture of dignity and hope shoulder to shoulder with Haitians they had come to serve. They received more than they could give.
Martin Luther King understood the power of serving. The movement he inspired through service won-over the whole, not just the part. MLK’s servant-leadership aligned his actions with his winsome oratory. It kept King’s agenda from decaying into a win-lose bid for power.
A Movement “Gone South“
I think King would be disappointed by the ways his civil-rights legacy sometimes has been leveraged to pit one race against another. King’s goal was countrywide, not sub-group. His vision was not competitive but more like a rising tide which elevates all ships. In his words,
“If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”
Some of King’s sharper comments might sound like a power-bid for the oppressed rather than a check on the oppressors. King’s secret sauce, servant leadership, inspired the whole not just the part. With a pow-share rather than a sword in hand, even heated words can invite common ground.
How do we tune-in to this hopeful frequency again today?
We need vision: a picture of a preferred future together. King envisioned again the melting pot whose fruits continue to attract people to our shores. He inspired a more perfect union by leveling the playing field for service, not for the rat race. He died as he lived, for the common good, with the mark of a true servant leader willing to take up his cross.
“Greater love has no one that this: that he should lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus