MLK Day – On Service and Doing for Others

January 23, 2017

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It came out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was humbled. I was at Bates College attending MLK Day speakers and workshops with Gould students.

Shortly after, late in the afternoon, I accompanied my friend, colleague, and World Languages Department Chair Adam Leff through the streets of Lewiston/Auburn to meet staff at several organizations including the Immigration and Refugee Services and the Trinity Jubilee Center.

A glimpse at two of the student service projects on MLK Day.

We drove away from the brick and ivy of Bates in Adam’s car into what Adam said was the neediest zip code in Northern New England. Adam was excited to introduce me to the staff and show me the organizations where Gould students had served that day.

As we toured the facility, I heard the appreciation in the Director of the Maine Immigration and Refugee Services Center’s words, as he described the help that Gould students gave to their clients that day.

I saw the respect in the way that Erin at the soup kitchen in the Trinity Jubilee Center talked to Adam. I heard the care, the concern, and the respect that Adam gave to all the people we encountered – rich or poor, black or white, immigrant or American.

During this time with Adam, I found myself traveling back in time in my life to a time when service to others was more important than the checklist at work, the homework to do, the time of the race, or the score of the game. A time when people were the most important thing. A time when giving and service was the heart of what mattered. Seeing the impact that Adam and our students had on the world made me feel less jaded, younger, more present, and more alive. That hour with Adam helped me reflect on how service to others is taking time for what truly matters and how the most important gift we have to give is ourselves.

My hope for my daughter and the other Gould students who took part in service at one of the organizations listed below on Martin Luther King Day is that they hold onto what it means to give and serve others. As we grow up, it is easy for time and life to temper our idealism, and to lose ourselves in the to do list, the homework, and the treadmill.

My hope is for their service to awaken a sense of the possibility in the world, a sense that one can and should change the world, and a realization that life’s most important question truly is, “What are you doing for others?”

A list of the service projects, and where the students volunteered:

More photos from the day can be seen here.

Brad Clarke
Dr. Clarke is the Associate Dean of Academics and History Department Chair at Gould. He loves his family, trail running, playing baseball, and his epic collection of vinyl records.

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