Inspiration and Service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

MONDAY, JANUARY 21: As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day dawns on Monday, millions of Americans already will have spent their weekend helping others. The linkage between the King holiday and public service is now a part of the annual three-day weekend coast to coast. TODAY, our story tells you how to get involved—and provides free inspirational reading you can share with others.


THE WEEKEND leading to the King holiday now is filled with service events, including the National Day of Service (that website offers links to programs across the country via a Zip Code search). The United We Serve website also is a gateway into the nationwide network of volunteer opportunities.

These themes extend into Inauguration Day 2013, which we cover in a second story.


This year, Americans are hearing more about the trend toward “micro-volunteering.” The goal is finding bite-sized ways for men and women to provide valuable service in the midst of otherwise busy schedules.

National Public Radio began its reports on the National Day of Service by highlighting micro-volunteering: Michelle Nunn heads Points of Light, the nation’s largest volunteer organization … She says nonprofits have to be more creative as needs grow but budgets tighten.”There’s now what we call sort of ‘micro-volunteering,’ where if you actually have 15 minutes, there are little micro-assignments. You can help a nonprofit think about how they edit their funding letter or to come up with a great new slogan.”

With the explosion of social networking, a growing number of commercial and non-profit applications are zeroing in on mirco-volunteering. One leading firm in the field is Sparked, which sells tools to help companies and nonprofits find worthwhile ways to use this crowdsourcing form of small-bite activism.

Sound silly? Or, to put it bluntly: Are these micro-volunteers just too lazy to do more? No, on the contrary, “Micro” is an important new reality in American life. IN A RELATED STORY THIS WEEK, Caregiving columnist Heather Jose focuses on the nation’s more than 60 million caregivers, people who are caring for people with chronic health issues or disabilities. These caregivers already are providing untold hours of service. Heather Jose’s column focuses on micro-resolutions for these caregivers to improve their own health and spirits—so they can keep working in the trenches of daily service throughout the year.


Americans are innundated with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day media! One terrific resource is this Wikipedia entry on King Day, which includes links to the original holiday legislation and other interesting historical materials. ReadTheSpirit has its own fascinating series of King stories, which are part of a book we publish: Interfaith Heroes, Volume 2, by Daniel Buttry. We have published online a series of four chapters from that book because they tell the inspiring (and educational) story of peacemakers passing their insights from one generation to another—and from one part of the world to another. The chapters include: Mohandas Gandhi, then Martin Luther King himself, plus Aung San Suu Kyi, and also E. Stanley Jones.

You may also enjoy reading about peacemaking themes that still echo from President Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable Second Inaugural Address.


Thanks to a German YouTube poster, we can listen to the following audio of King’s most famous speech, I Have a Dream, combined with photos of King. The entire video runs 13 minutes. If you do not see a video screen in your version of this column, click here to reload it and the screen should appear.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.


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