Many of you don’t have to go to work today. Sure, that’s great, sleep in if you like. But when you get up, think about giving back this MLK Day. While the government’s healthcare website might be finicky at best, its site dedicated to this National Day of Service (did you know that existed?) is excellent and lets you pinpoint volunteer opportunities within your community. Check out http://mlkday.gov/serve/find.php to find a project in your area that touches your heart. If you need inspiration, look no further than the man of the day, who underscored to us that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘what are you doing for others?’”

This is the 20th anniversary of the day we observe the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so what better way to so than to get involved at the grassroots level? The Civil Rights Movement was, and still is, defined by the sum of its parts, all of our parts, in working together to make the whole—our block, our city, our nation—better. Fifty years ago this past August, King stood before a crowd of over a quarter million people gathered at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Some of you may know it, in part or in its entirety, by heart. Because that’s what he touched inside those attendees and anyone who hears its grainy recording all these years later: he ignited with a fire to fix what’s broken. Because “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

If you need a some inspirations on how to give back, here are three ideas that honor King’s commitment to community improvement.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity 200During last year’s National Day of Service, Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said that “Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community inspires us as we seek to bring people together to improve living conditions all around the world. We urge volunteers to participate in the Day of Service as a means to build homes, communities and hope.”

Find Habitat volunteer opportunities near you here: http://www.habitat.org/local

Your Local Food Bank

Food Bank 200A worthy effort any day of the year, what better way to honor King than to help the elderly, disabled, or simply going through a rough patch put food on the table? If you’re not already connected with a local donation center in your area, Feed America’s handy guide will help you pinpoint your search: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx

Your Neighborhood School

School 200Sure, the kids might have the day off, but the needs of the education system in America are present every day. With the blast of winter weather so much of the country has suffered recently, get in touch with your local school and help organize a coat drive. Get involved with the library and help make new readers. If the playground at that school down the street doesn’t look like something you’d want to go near as a kid, organize a community clean-up to make the place somewhere fun to play.

Your gesture doesn’t need to be large. Lots of small gestures make big change. And remember what Dr. King told us: “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Image Credits:

Habitat for Humanity: Bridget Camden at www.bridgetcamden.com

Elementary School: www.accesskansas.com

MLK Dream Speech: history.denverlibrary.org

MLK Close-up: www.biography.com