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What Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About Serving Others

As people across Greater Atlanta – and the world – prepare to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King with a day of service, I am reminded of one of his most famous quotes:  “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’”

By Milton J. Little, Jr.

By Milton J. Little, Jr. President & CEO, United Way of Greater Atlanta

As I was pondering the question recently, and thinking about Dr. King’s many accomplishments, I came up with five takeaways from his life that can help us all live a life of service and create change for a stronger community.

1. He nurtured his gift: One reason Dr. King was so successful was because he was a great communicator. But he didn’t just wake up one day delivering riveting speeches, with all the inflections on all the right words. It’s a skill he had been nurturing since he was a child. Whatever your natural gifts and talents may be, continue to cultivate them and find ways to use them to help others.

2. He was courageous: Webster defines courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. It’s what gave Dr. King the ability to fight for causes he believed in, knowing it could cost him his life. Creating change never comes easy, so to become a true change agent, you must have courage to see it through.

3. He gave selflessly: Dr. King paid the ultimate price in his service to others, but it was just his final act in a life of selflessness and sacrifice to ensure equality for all. He gave his time, traveling around the world, often leaving his wife and young children at home. He gave his talents – the gift of communication and leadership – and he gave his treasure, even donating his Nobel Prize Award money to the Civil Rights movement. You must be willing to serve others without receiving anything in return.

4. He collaborated with others: Dr. King was part of the Civil Rights Movement – a collaboration with many other people and organizations. Together, they were able to accomplish what no individual or group would have been able to do alone. There is truly power in numbers.

5. He had faith: I’m not talking about faith in the religious or spiritual sense, but I mean a sincere, unshakable belief that what he was doing would work. That faith was on full display during his last speech when he said:  “…I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know…we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Believe that the change you are fighting and working tirelessly for will come…and it will.

How has Dr. King inspired you? What lessons from his life do you want to share with others? Let me know in the comment section below. MLK_MILTON_BLOG

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