Archive for January 18th, 2021

January 18, 2021

What is Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a remarkable, historic civil rights leader whose wisdom and mission remain relevant in the 21st century.

I am writing this post during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, a national holiday in the United States. This occasion reminds me of when I first learned about King. I was a first-grade student when King was murdered on April 4, 1968. Until then, I had never heard of him.

When my elementary school closed for a day of mourning in King’s honor, my mother explained to me who King was, why he was important, and that he had been assassinated. Mom also had to explain to me what the word “assassination” means. Even at six-years-old, I recognized the horrific irony of killing a man who advocated non-violence, and I wept.

In 2015, the kind folks at the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Memphis Chapter invited me to speak at their conference. My hosts were gracious, and they took wonderful care of me. Knowing my interest in King, they even provided me with a ticket to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel during my extended stay. The site is where King was killed. Stepping into King’s motel room was moving. Touring the Museum was eye-opening, even for someone knowledgeable about the civil rights movement. I encourage you to visit Memphis and the Museum.

As I’ve said, King remains relevant after more than a half-century following his death. Consider this quote from King:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

It’s a great question. It’s one that those of us working in the nonprofit sector answer every day. It’s one that every person who engages in philanthropy answers with their actions.

If you can respond to King’s question in a meaningful way, you should feel proud. It may not always feel like it, but you are making a difference. You are living a life worth living. As King said:

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