It has become an American tradition to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday through service to others. In his last speech before his assassination, he shared with the audience the story of the Good Samaritan. He noted that the first question asked by the Levite was "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" However, when the Good Samaritan came by he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" He would call upon us to recognize that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” And so it was with his decision to help the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Dr. King would be equally inclined today to help the children of Haiti. He would not stand or sit idly by as the children go without food, shelter, clothing, health care or education. He would ask us to develop a “dangerous unselfishness” to help make a difference in the lives of the children. He believed that “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” There is no pecuniary benefit for your support of the Center of Hope (Haiti). You receive only the knowledge that you have helped to make a difference in the livelihood of children otherwise without hope.
It took uncommon efforts to get Dr. King’s birthday declared an official holiday in the United States. It is not just another opportunity for self-indulgences. It is a reminder of his call to the nation to stand up for freedom and justice and also a call to all of us to serve the broader concerns of humanity. In his view, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” In this respect, the call for service is not for one day, but rather for everyday – to be dangerously unselfish.