What We Can Learn from Martin Luther King Jr. About Service

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
FILE / ASSOCIATED PRESS

As a humanitarian organization for social change, we genuinely believe that community engagement and service allows people to see each other’s humanity. This is why we truly value Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service. He was a servant of humanity. He truly believed in a non-violent message of equality and justice regardless of race, creed, or color. 

We can all learn from him. Here are some of our favorite lessons from the beloved civil rights leader:

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” 

Serving others doesn’t just help the people in need. Humans are social by nature. We have an intrinsic desire to help one another. And, when we help others, we become part of something bigger than ourselves. Helping others actually helps you grow as an individual. It is what makes you great. The best part? We can all help others in our own way. 

“We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

If we want to truly bring social change, we must have hope that we can make a difference. Hopelessness will only paralyze us. We have to keep hope alive not just for ourselves, but for the ones we want to help. In our work with Zakat Foundation of America, we see that look of hope in every person we help. 

Bringing a brighter future is in line with our Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, said, “If the Last Day is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Last Day is established to plant it.”

We have to strive to bring about change; even in the face of despair. 

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. What happens in one country and its people may not have a direct effect on us, but we all feel the impact of war, famine, and natural disasters. Helping others weather these crises is not only the right thing to do, it helps all of us. 

Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, said “the believers are like one person; if his head aches, the whole body aches with fever and sleeplessness.”

“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

Brotherhood is what helps uplift us all. When we care for one another like we care for ourselves, we make the world a better place. We hope that we can continue the legacy of service that Martin Luther King Jr. left for us as a guide. 

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