A celebration next week to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. will look different than in years past.
In prior years, Missouri Southern State University coordinated a list of nonprofits and charities needing volunteer assistance and then asked the community — both on campus and off — to sign up. It was an offering in keeping with the MLK Day of Service, adopted by Congress in 1994 and the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Its tagline: "A day on, not a day off."
Unfortunately, participation had dropped off in recent years, MSSU officials told the Globe last week. And some volunteers would register through Missouri Southern but then never show up for work, which must have been frustrating for the organizations counting on that help for the day. Unsurprisingly, Missouri Southern has scaled back this year, eliminating the day of service.
Certainly, there's no one right way to honor King's life and legacy. You'll still have the opportunity to do that on Monday. Missouri Southern's event this year will feature guest speaker Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP; reserve your spot — it's free to attend — by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you believe in the values that King stood for, then we urge you to create your own day of service in his memory. Courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, consider King's lifetime of service to promote the betterment of his community:
• He was a spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.
• He led numerous civil rights groups in nonviolent campaigns in 1963, prompting a nationwide push for civil rights legislation.
• He was one of the driving forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, more commonly known as the March on Washington, in 1963. Over the next two years, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, eliminating legalized racial segregation in the U.S., and the Voting Rights Act, eliminating barriers to voting for African Americans.
• In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, saying in his acceptance speech: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."
• He shifted his focus in 1965 to economic justice and international peace, speaking out strongly against the Vietnam War and establishing the Poor Peoples Campaign to advocate on behalf of impoverished Americans.
Service was clearly in King's blood. He felt the call and stepped up to work toward what he wanted. It was always "a day on" for him.
Even without an organized day of service in the Joplin area, we can continue that work here. Pick your favorite local nonprofit or charity and spend a few hours volunteering there. We think it's what King would have wanted.