Aiming for a lifestyle of community service

BY Bill Reagan

I write my first draft of this column on the Monday before publication. Last Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King and President Washington are the only Americans to have been celebrated with official federal holidays.

My social media feeds were filled on Monday with pictures of Dr. King and memorable quotes from this most eloquent of American heroes. My favorite is “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” There are many wrongs in this world, but someday, somehow, “we shall overcome” them.

Many people mark the King holiday as a day of service. We had a larger than usual number of volunteers in our dining hall Monday, many came specifically to honor the memory of Dr. King.

A day of service is a great gesture, a way to do something for the community, to leave a positive impact for progress and change. Students often take advantage of the King holiday to fulfill the community service component of their high school or college requirements.

Service shouldn’t be something you get out of the way for a few hours once a year way so you can move onto something else. The only satisfying service is a lifestyle of service. Servant leadership is a popular concept. However, servant leadership is not just one style or technique of leadership. Authentic leadership is really the result of service. You can’t be a real leader unless you are first a servant. Anything else is just bullying.

I belong to a wonderful organization called Rotary International. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.” This simple, three word phrase sums up the meaning of service. To serve is to abandon self for something

bigger. Dr. King gave his life to the cause of civil rights every day until his life was taken from him. In giving ourselves to “Service Above Self” bit by bit that “arc of the moral universe” bends a little closer to “liberty and justice for all.”

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.