Service to Others: A Way of Life

Friday, January 28, 2011

A nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged the members of the University of West Georgia community to make service a key part of their lives.

“Performing acts of service, if you are doing them correctly…is a workout for your heart and your soul,” said Isaac Newton Farris Jr., senior vice president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Yet, that service will most likely not be accompanied by compensation, recognition, praise, glory or even a thank you, he said.

“The satisfaction that you get is just by knowing that you have helped someone,” he said.

Farris reminded audience members that the King Holiday is set apart as a day of service on purpose.

“We did not want this to be a day of hero worship,” he said. “Performing acts of service is the key to the beloved community that my uncle so often talked about.”

During the 2010 King holiday more 1 million acts of service were performed and even more were done this year, he said.

Service, he said, should not only happen on that one day, but should become a way of life.

The projects sparked by the King holiday during the past 25 years include: painting homes, planting gardens in housing projects, community food drives, non-violence workshops, repairs to homeless and domestic violence shelters, blood donor drives, gun buy-backs and gang intervention summits.

“Every year the list of community service projects grows,” he said. “And more and more people begin to embrace serving others as a way of life.”

Farris spoke at the UWG Campus Center Ballroom on Jan. 27 for the Second Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program, which was coordinated by the Office of Institutional Diversity. Nearly three dozen student organizations participated in the program.

Mentoring young people year-round – all young people not just “at risk” children – is one of the best ways to serve, he said.

Youth were crucial to the Civil Rights movement, particularly in the Birmingham campaign, he said. That was the moment for that generation.

“You don’t have to risk your life,” Farris said. “You don’t have to be beat. You don’t have to have fire hoses turned upon you…. You don’t have to make a sacrifice like that now because they did it for you. But you owe it to them to do what you are called to do now. Community service is one of those things that you are called to do now.”