Think critically, act, and make a difference

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day should be more than a time to celebrate diversity, which has always characterized the continent of North America. Millions of Native Americans in scores of tribes were here before the Europeans arrived from various countries.

Instead, celebrating King's day should be about what he represented, especially if this is the reason he is the only American citizen for whom a national holiday has been named.

King wanted America to be the dream of the founding fathers, minus the many exclusions they applied. What the Constitution and Bill of Rights provided to white male property owners, King wanted for everyone. Serious celebrants want the same, and serious celebrants know that they must work on King's dream every day, not merely on the Friday or Monday closest to January 15.

Imagine what a difference we could make if we made a point of thinking critically before acting, made choices knowing that some of them can't be redone or erased. As a special tribute to King's dream, we can consider our actions more closely.

What would happen if all of us took care of ourselves? When we are healthy, we have the energy to help others and ourselves.

We can get an education, and stress its value to our family. While much of what we learn is not in books, what we learn in the process of getting an education can help us deal more equitably with others.

Many problems could be remedied if we take care of the ones for whom we are responsible. We can help the children in our neighborhood, our place of worship, or wherever we go, especially if they appear in need.

Teach someone something you value, something which has made your life better. Volunteer. Visit. Be dependable. Read to children and adults. Plan a neighborhood project.

We can help adults in our lives: positively changing the life of an adult may mean a positive change in the lives of others.

Treat adults and children to cultural events they may never attend. Give single parents a hand. Relieve a caregiver. Attend an unfamiliar worship service. Begin a program of assistance.

Make financial donations to groups espousing ideas that can make King's dream a reality, attend their gatherings, contribute and get ideas.

Get a person to write or record his or her life story. Listen to the opinions of others. Work for justice.

Don't think this is too big for one person.

Write supporting letters, or send e-mails, for causes which support the dream and send protest letters for causes which do not.

Support a college student. Take someone to breakfast, brunch, coffee, lunch or dinner.

Don't tell jokes or make comments that you believe are offensive. Explain why you think a comment or joke is offensive.

Help others to succeed. Empathize. Respect people who serve you: cashiers, hygienists, receptionists, custodians and ushers, for example.

Call attention to the absence of people whose interests could be at stake because they have been omitted or overlooked. Do what you can to integrate boards, clubs and other organizations.

These are just a few examples, surely you can think of others.

Yes, you are one person. So initially, any or all of these suggestions may seem too small to have any effect. At most, you may think your actions will have little effect. But we're talking about Martin Luther King's dream, and you are a serious celebrant.

Everything needs a beginning, and a start with something that seems small is better than no start. The incorporation of any one of the above critical thinking suggestions can be your beginning.

You may never know how influential you have been or will be. Remember, celebrating King's day means acting as the King of the "I Have a Dream" would have acted, or as we believe he would want us to act.

Southeast Seattle resident Georgia McDade may be reached through

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