Today, January 16, 2017, our nation will recognize the life, legacy and lessons of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is a man who dedicated his life to serving others and peacefully fighting for unity, equality and civil rights.
Oftentimes, our school-age children, and even us adults, look forward to this “day off.” I encourage us to not just mark “MLK Day – No School” off your calendar. Instead, let’s take a moment to do one or more of the following:
“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Parents, in particular mothers, are our child’s first teacher. It is up to us to educate our children about life, our history and those who have made a positive impact on our society. There are countless activities for children of all ages to engage in that share the life, legacy and lessons of Dr. King.
Here are just a few I have found:
Scholastic: Spirit of Service – http://www.scholastic.com/mlkday/
Martin Luther King Jr. Egg Cracking Activity – http://www.theseasonedmom.com/martin-luther-king-jr-day-egg-cracking-activity/
I Have a Dream Mobile – https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/printable-i-have-dream-mobile/
In addition to various learning activities, books can also serve as a valuable resource in teaching your children about Dr. King. Books such as Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and National Geographic Reader: Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Another action we can take with our children is to serve. There are a wealth of nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region. Many of the organizations not only welcome but also encourage family volunteerism.
- The Education Partnership. The Education Partnership is on a mission to “address educational inequities by providing and enabling access to the tools and resources necessary to support teachers and enhance a student’s ability to learn and succeed.” The first teacher resource center in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Education Partnership distributes “school and classroom supplies at no cost to teachers and students in need.”
- Beverly’s Birthdays. “Every child, regardless of personal or financial circumstances deserves a special birthday.” That is the belief of Beverly’s Birthdays and this nonprofit organization is on a mission to “spread birthday cheer 365 days a year.” Offering charisma, joy, compassion, purpose and cheer, Beverly’s Birthdays partners with shelters/housing programs, group homes, residential facilities, food banks and human service agencies to spread that birthday cheer.
- Animal Friends. Animal Friends is “a premier companion animal resource center, is committed to nurturing and promoting the animal-human bond and nurturing relationships with companion animals which are guided by compassion.” Seeking to reduce the number of unwanted animals, provide companionship for animals in need and more, Animal Friends is deeply committed to meeting the needs of local animals.
- Zachary’s Mission. Zachary’s Mission “recognizes that hospital families face financial and emotional hardships when a child is ill.” This local nonprofit organization “strives to lessen these burdens” through a suite of programs that include “Zack Packs to families who unexpectedly find themselves with a child in the hospital, financial assistance with transportation and utility expenses, “supplying Baby’s First Gifts to enable families celebrate holiday milestones” and more. Created in memory and honor of little Zachary Hunter Vince who passed away from a congenital heart defect, Zachary’s Mission works in partnership with The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, The Children’s Home and Lemieux Family Center, West Penn Hospital NICU and The Children’s Institute to identify families who would benefit from the support of Zachary’s Mission.
- Foster Love Project. Pittsburgh Mom, Kelly Hughes, has taken her life experience and transformed it into her life’s work. “The mission of Foster Love Project is to provide love in action to foster children in Western Pennsylvania as well as support to the foster families who are providing care for them. This may look like providing a placement bag for a child, easing the transition with gift cards, assisting with additional resources or connecting families with a time of respite.” Oftentimes, foster children arrive at the door of a new home with a host of traumatic experiences, yet little to no belongings. Foster Love Project’s work is necessary to ease this transitional moment for foster parents and the children being welcomed into their homes.
Love your family and your neighbor
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s simple, yet it’s power is immeasurable. Modeling unconditional, nonjudgmental love for our family, friends, neighbors and strangers has the ability to make a positive impact on our children that can last a lifetime. Kindness is contagious and it’s at the heart of Dr. King’s work. Our children are watching us. They notice the small moments that we take for granted. Encourage your children to join you in doing random acts of kindness, not just on MLK Day, but every day.
As Maya Angelou so eloquently said, “People will for get what you did. People will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”