A Socially Distanced MLK Day

“An individual has not started to live until he or she can rise above the narrow confines of his or her individual list of concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 18th marks the 26th year Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered with a U.S. Federal Holiday. It’s the only of its kind to be designated as “a day on, not a day off.” In keeping with his legacy, Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King, reinforces the conviction that “you are important. You are significant and you have something that you can offer to make humanity a better place.”

While in years past many Americans have gone out into the world to offer in person service in commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy, considerations of COVID-19 will render many of us unable to participate in such gatherings. Instead, in the spirit of offering whatever you have to give, here are some ideas for how to celebrate MLK Day without risking the health of yourself or loved ones.

Reach out to friends and family to ask how you can support them this year

In spite of the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, many folks have embraced the spirit of a hopeful New Year. Whether it is a regimented fitness endeavor, commitment to focusing on a new hobby, a shift in priorities or simply making an effort to break from routine, folks everywhere are using this scheduled refresh to start anew. Consider reaching out to friends to ask what you can do to help them meet their goals. It could be offering a daily supportive text, cooking the occasional meal or joining them over the phone for a moment of prayer or meditation. Serving others can often have the happy side effect of serving ourselves just as much.

Drop off a donation

While organizations and churches may not be hosting in-person service projects this year, most are still accepting donations. During these coldest days of the year, providing warm clothes to our most vulnerable neighbors is vitally important. Perhaps bring new or gently used coats and blankets to a local center. If you are an animal lover, consider dropping off blankets for your furry friends at the shelter.

Cook a meal for a someone

Whether it’s for a stranger or a loved one, cooking a home-cooked meal for him or her is a hearty (and tasty) way to offer care. Here are some casserole ideas from Southern Living to feed the whole crew. Go above and beyond to serve someone by asking in advance what he or she is most craving and even throw in a scrumptious dessert.

Sign up to be a foster pet parent

According to the Atlanta Humane Society’s website, “foster caregivers provide temporary care for cats, kittens, dogs and puppies in their own homes.” There are a couple orientations each month, the next one being January 24th, to learn more about becoming a caregiver. Since volunteering in contact with other humans could potentially be too risky, perhaps helping out a four-legged friend is presently more suitable!

Pick up trash

No organization necessary. This could be as simple as walking down your street or heading to your favorite hike and bringing along a trash bag. It’s simple and low-maintenance but will greatly benefit the community at large.

Buy coffee for the person in line behind you

The age-old trick of instantly brightening your fellow coffee-drinker’s day. Pro tip: make sure the person behind you isn’t picking up an order for fifteen people. Unless you want to treat the whole gang to some fresh brew!

Research charities and pledge a monetary donation

There are countless non-profits and charitable organizations, each with a specific niche. Such targeted service offers invaluable support to the community and also opens the opportunity to align with a cause near to your heart. With this extra day “on,” consider finding something you’re especially passionate about and donating one time or else pledging a monthly commitment for the uncertain year ahead.

Listen to one of MLK’s recorded speeches

The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute of Stanford University has an archive of many of Dr. King’s speeches and sermons. The marvel of modern technology allows us listen to his timeless message, decades later, and reflect on past progress and work yet to be done.