All this month, we're thinking about and celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was born in the south, Mississippi to be exact, and although I only lived there for a couple of years, I grew up with a passel of southern relatives. My father, who had moved us to California, always thought of MS as his boyhood Eden. We all congregated yearly at my grandfather's house in northern MS, not that far from Jackson. We were there to celebrate the birthday of my grandfather and his twin brother. They had married sisters...thus the "passel" of relatives.
I have happy memories of those reunions, but I also remember segregation, the civil rights movement, and the heartbreak of Dr. King's death. When I read The Help last year and then saw the movie, I remembered how hard those days were, and how I've often been torn between my happy memories of listening to the stories of my orally-gifted aunts and uncles and what I knew to be true of the lives I barely saw beyond that cozy enclave of family.
I like to think that most of us who went into teaching, social work, nonprofit management, and fundraising have been touched by examples of sacrifice such as Dr. King's and his dream of social change through nonviolent protest. In a way, nonprofits and the people who work in them exemplify a dream that refuses to die. Although I no longer work at a nonprofit or in education, my dream is to keep learning about how to inspire people to give as donors, volunteers, board members, and activists, and to bring what I learn back to this big circle of caring people.
My dreams for the charities that I am drawn to are really three:
- That they do not become stuck in the past but open themselves to new ideas, methods, technology, and generations.
- That their fundraising appeals address the big social issues of our day and point out multiple paths for people to create change.
- That they create a culture within that values learning, adequately rewards hard work, and treasures the people who join them because they are change makers.
Every year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that dreams matter, and that sacrifice is required to bring them to fruition. This girl from MS thanks him for that.
More about Martin Luther King, Jr:
- In Dr. King's Footsteps - About.com
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Capacity for Growth - The Huffington Post
- I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King Jr. - MLK Online
Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall January 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images