Every year we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work toward nonviolence and social justice. On Monday, January 18th, as part of the nationwide MLK Day of Service, more than 100 University of Rochester undergraduates spent their holiday volunteering at nonprofit organizations throughout the city of Rochester. The Black Student Union and Students for Interfaith Action partnered with agencies across the river in the 19th Ward and Plymouth Exchange neighborhoods sharing their time with the community.
I joined The Students for Interfaith Action at the South West YMCA. The day was filled with numerous activities. Students read to the children and played games. The group made luminaries which were placed along neighborhood sidewalks that evening. There was even a reflection hour in which everyone took the time to discuss the importance of Dr. King’s legacy. But what stood out the most that day, was how quickly the children at the YMCA gravitated towards our students when they first arrived. By nature children are trusting. Their willingness to interact with others comes easily as they do not share the preconceived notions that many adults have. As I talked with our students, I found that they share the same enthusiasm that those children had. They have not lost that sense of commonality that helps shape who they are or who they hope to become. More than 70% of Rochester students volunteer for community service projects throughout the year, exemplifying their dedication to being ever better.
In 1964, during his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Dr. King observed the importance of looking beyond the need to reach material success: “There is a sort of poverty of the spirit that stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance,” he said. “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.” All of us strive to better ourselves, through education, through our careers, but the question is do we strive to better ourselves as human beings. It is an important question that each of us should ask ourselves, especially in memory of Martin Luther King.