For the third year in a row, our family attended our church’s winter family getaway over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. We enjoyed the company of over 40 families from the church, swimming in the hotel pool and singing and studying scripture together. Our attempts to sleep in new and unfamiliar arrangements were thwarted by the kids’ enthusiasm for all of the activities, so when we arrived home on Monday afternoon, we were all exhausted.
But fortunately, I had signed up ahead of time for all six of us to attend the Many Helping Hands MLK Day of Service that has become an annual tradition in Cambridge. Needless to say, the kids didn’t want to go, even though an afternoon activity was necessary to tide us over until a hopefully early bedtime. To their protests, I put my foot down, explaining that this service opportunity was a perfect way to apply all of the lessons we had learned over the weekend.
Our family pastor had led us through a series of illustrations to teach us ways to show honor to those around us. Our memory verse for the weekend came from Romans 12:10:
“Honor others above yourselves.”
My kids wrote the verse on a neon green poster board which we displayed on one of the walls in our hotel room. We needed constant reminders to stop complaining and grumbling (Philippians 2:14) and instead to focus on how we could:
I expect that while it may not be necessary to memorize this definition of honor in three parts, the components of honor as they are described here help provide a foundation for how to treat others the way we want to be treated. It was great to return to these ideas once again...and try to directly apply them.
That Monday afternoon we pried the kids off the couch, explaining that what better way to honor the memory and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than by serving the needy of Cambridge, by treating them as special and doing more than what’s expected. On the drive over to City Hall, I suggested that while we would participate all together, it was up to each of us to decide what kind of attitude we would bring with us, a good attitude being more enjoyable for everyone involved, of course.
Upon arrival, we all struggled with that for the first few minutes as we joined the large shivering crowd already gathered on the front lawn of City Hall where we listened to the tail-end of a speech given by one of the organizers. But after that, we slowly climbed the stairs with the crowd, adorned ourselves with MLK Day buttons, and joined in the work.
The kids waited in line patiently to fill bags of groceries, donating some canned goods we brought in the process. Then we found seats at a table (where it was great to run into some neighbors!) and proceeded to craft Valentine’s Day cards to residents in nursing homes. At that point, we called it quits, especially given everyone’s fatigue level. Other residents continued to sort books, craft blankets and scarves, and write their stories about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work inspired them. We decided that maybe next year we could return to do it again, and add one more service project to the afternoon.
Later that evening, when I walked into the living room and discovered that one of my sons had straightened up the couch pillows like I asked (on the first ask!), I felt honored. And I felt hopeful that maybe we learned something that weekend about how to serve others and create an environment that breeds honor, and through that, love.
Of course, the next couple of hours until bedtime were fairly rocky. We still have a long way to go, but I am thankful for the start we’ve made, and for the reminder to return to these lessons again and again.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.