MLK Day 2019: How Do You Serve Others?

What are you doing for others? Social activist, Baptist minister, nonviolence advocate and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that this is life’s most persistent question.

As a group of communicators focused on social change, we at Vanguard ask ourselves that very question often in our work and in our personal lives.

There’s power in being of service. In our work, we know that social change happens not only on a grand scale through policy and innovative programs but also through the efforts we make to support others in our everyday.

Here’s how five Vanguardians are living Dr. King’s words.

Crystal Borde

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

As Rev. King said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, I too refuse to accept the status quo that values inequity and injustice. When facing these social challenges, I serve by finding opportunities for action instead of being deterred by societal obstructions and taking no action at all. I work hard to be more aware of my language, implicit biases and experiences to create the small yet loving steps and actions in my life that will foster a more inclusive, equitable and just world for us all.

Brenda Foster

“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

Sometimes the problems of the world can seem overwhelming. It’s often easier to tune out everything rather than focus on what will make a difference—maybe not forever, but for today. I try to take a breath and see how I could do one thing right now to help.

Brittany Vanderpool

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I try to serve others through kindness. It is something that I am continually working on, but recently I began trying to approach even the toughest situations with kindness and understanding. I also try to volunteer whenever I am able, and I am a St. Jude Partner in Hope.

Gerry DeLeon

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

I serve others by lending my time and knowledge to those that value and have a purpose of impacting systemic societal change for good. This spreads across all my relationships, whether for Vanguard or for the various nonprofit boards on which I serve.

Shannon Walsh

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

For several years, I have served others through my volunteer work with Covenant House, an organization providing housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness in the Southeast Washington, DC, area. Being able to build long-term relationships and invest in these youths’ lives has been a great pleasure and privilege.

No matter our place in life, we each can contribute something toward creating a more equitable society. How will you serve others in 2019?