Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday, serves as an antidote to the rampant individualism in our culture. Individualism does of course have positive aspects, it can encourage innovation and responsibility for oneself and ones future. Balanced with a sense of relationship to others, a healthy dose of individualism is a good thing.
The difficulty however is when individualism becomes the highest value, to the point of meeting one’s own needs are first and foremost, with the needs of others a distant second. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw how self-absorption could lead to indifference towards the needs of others. As a follower of Jesus, he understood that the selflessness, servanthood and concern for the common good, were to be valued above all else and that paradoxically, as we give ourselves away for the good of others, it is then that we find our true reason for being and our greatest joy.
Dr. King said: “No person has learned to live until he/she can rise above the narrow confines of their individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
This morning seven of us from the church I walk with, attended a class at Chemeketa Community College, entitled: International Community Service in Action. The class consists of 24 individuals who will conclude our class by travelling to Nicaragua in late March, for the purpose of helping with a medical mission http://www.amoshealthandhope.org in Nicaragua (the second poorest country in the western hemisphere).
Currently we are a class of 24 ‘individuals’, who over several Saturdays, will gather as a class to discuss ways of serving people beyond our national borders. I look forward to seeing our class gradually being transformed into a community.
Sure, we will continue to be individuals (with our strengths and weakness) but my great hope is that ‘together’ we will become so much more. In the words of Dr. King, in working together for the sake of others, we will learn how ‘to live’.
Happy birthday Martin!