MLK Day a Time of Reflection, Service
January 19, 2010
Saint Leo University students and employees who spent part of
Monday gladly doing community-service projects were following the
best examples, according to author Jeffrey Odell Korgen.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day than in service,” Korgen said during a morning address held at the Student Community Center. Service was the path of the late Dr. King, and of Jesus, especially service to the poor and the neglected, he said.
Korgen was referring specifically to the Community Service Day projects organized each spring semester at the main campus for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Classes were cancelled and students and employees were invited to special programming Monday morning, followed by opportunities to volunteer at non-profit agencies in the afternoon. Korgen was selected as the 2010 speaker because of his experience in working with young people and his extensive writing about social justice.
The author is an eager advocate of volunteer work, especially when done with a good understanding of Catholic social teaching. To give the audience that level of understanding, he shared the difference between charity, the necessary act of helping others, and the less-well understood feeling of solidarity. “Solidarity is the belief that there is a human connection between all the people in the world.” The faithful need to cultivate the capacity to feel both charity and solidarity, he said, to be able to help others in a moment of need through charity, and to assist in the long-term, when solidarity is needed to right a systemic wrong present in society.
Acting on a feeling of solidarity, Korgen continued, often means “helping people to have an active voice in public life.” He drew on examples of Catholic projects that have helped people start their own businesses, attain safer working conditions, or earn a living wage. “On the last day of his life,” Korgen noted, “Martin Luther King was working with [striking] white, African-American, and Hispanic garbage collectors.”