Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. with Service: 

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity” to serve. You don’t have to know the Second Theory of Thermodynamics in Physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.   --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Drum Major Instinct sermon, 1968.


The above quotation, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Drum Major Instinct sermon has rattled around in my brain for a few years (ok, not the whole quote, but the paraphrase). I have a way that I see the world, things I think need to change, but I sometimes feel stuck. How to do it? How to affect big change? Does it matter if I am one person doing small things? When I sat down to write reflections on the excerpt, instead of “serve”, I replaced it with “affect change” and read it out loud. I felt like this simple switch deepened my understanding. I don’t have to set out to start a national or global movement. I can walk around my city, my neighborhood with my heart full and my soul open and I will see things to do to make it a better place. Big or small, I will see actions I can take to affect change where I live, for myself, my neighbors and for people I don’t even know. That’s the heart of the message for me, local community service, day in and day out whether we receive recognition for it or not.


It’s easy to become complacent or to leave service to those without kids, full time jobs, multiple jobs, the professionals, etc. But, if we are real with ourselves, we know that almost no one’s life has room to reach out and do “extras” in the community. Community service seems reserved for those with some magical pockets of time or space in their hearts to feel the need around them. But we can be those people. We can arrange our lives, time and hearts to love where we live and want to make it a better place for all, not just our friends and family.


This is not a guilt trip, this is not another "to-do" to add to an already exhausting list. This is an invitation, to be the hope and change we want to see in the world. Dr. Martin Luther King’s invitation is to become great by being who we are, where we are. Not to set out to be big and famous with our service, but to find out what affects us, what needs are in our community, what breaks our hearts and then get involved with that any way that we can. When we do that together in our own way, that is the big thing, that is the thing that will change the world.


If you are looking to get started here are some places to find local organizations near you to volunteer with:



Volunteer March

Create the Good

Written by: Melissa is the Administrative Director and College Consultant for ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She has extensive experience advising in Higher Education and has degrees in Psychology and International Peace & Conflict Transformation.

Photo Credit- Jeronimo Bernot on Unsplash