Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Helping Hands

ImageIt’s the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday today, and many of us will get the day off to celebrate.

But it’s not one of those holidays with fireworks or foods. We don’t really even have great sales. It’s more about…well, civility and service, treating all with respect and reaching out to help one another.

Honestly, though, I think Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best:

“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.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Dorothy Parker (Yes, Dorothy Parker)

ImageMany of you may be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday today. After all, the third Monday in January is set aside to remember this man and his work for racial equality. But I don’t think you can top author, Dorothy Parker, and the way she chose to celebrate and remember Dr. King.

And now you’re probably starting to wonder. Do I mean Dorothy Parker, the acerbic wit whose poetry and reviews often showed up in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair? You’re remembering her satirical short stories, or perhaps her reputation as a party girl. That Dorothy Parker?


ImageYep, that Dorothy Parker. She was quite the wise-cracking writer, but she was a political activist as well. And though she never met Martin Luther King, Jr., she was a fan of the civil rights movement and social equality, and she admired what the clergyman from the South was trying to achieve. So she left her literary estate to him. 

Within a year, King was assassinated, and so the estate was rolled over to the NAACP. Eventually, Dorothy Parker’s ashes were interred at a memorial garden at the organization’s Baltimore headquarters (which is a fascinating story in itself), and her epitaph reads:

“Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) Humorist, writer, critic, defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested “Excuse My Dust”. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind, and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people.”

Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., yes, but we also remember that his dream of equality continues with each and every one of us. As writers, we might not have a big literary estate like Dorothy Parker to support the dream. But we have our words.

And words can change the world.