A National Day of Service

mlkday2-100x100Written by Eric Petersen

On Monday we honor a man that did much to advance, among many things, the way we think about community service. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my favorite people to quote when I am looking to inspire myself and others to think about what we can do to make our community a better place for everyone.

 Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

 I am not sure I have come across another person that was able to put so much power into so few words. They are some of my favorite quotes because not only do they cause you to think about community service, but they inspire me to action every time I read them too. Please don’t get me wrong, thinking about community service is a noble venture and certainly the start of something great, but the heart of service comes from action. Let’s get out there and get our hands dirty! Let’s go put our backs into building something that lifts people up! Those are the thoughts that run through my head when I read MLK, Jr. quotes.

What better way to honor a man that believed foremost in service to others than to dedicate yourself to service on the day that is dedicated to him? That is what we think here at HOBY! Every year we encourage all or our affiliates to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service by choosing to make it a day on, not a day off.


Here in Arizona we participate in the Mesa MLK Day Parade. It is, by far, my favorite activity that our alumni do all year. The Saturday before, we get together and make our banner and signs with inspiring MLK, Jr. quotes. In addition to the quotes, we also make several other signs with three simple words on them.


We get up Monday morning and take our place within the procession; taking in the sense of community while high school marching bands make last minute adjustments, local dancers practice their routine one last time, and people scurry around their floats making sure everything is perfect. Then everyone comes together and the parade starts! We slowly make our way to the beginning and proceed to offer ‘Free HOBY Hugs’ to any onlooker that wants one.

Our alumni really get into the event and I thoroughly enjoy watching them run from one side of the street to the other, back and forth, offering anyone a hug with enthusiasm and joy. The gratitude that I see on the faces of those that receive a genuine hug from a complete stranger warms my heart. It really isn’t much, but I truly believe that what our alumni do every year on MLK, Jr. National Day of Service makes a positive difference in our community.


Does your alumni group do a community service event on MLK, Jr. Day? We want to hear about it too! Please post it in a comment below. Let’s give our alumni lots of great ideas for next year and inspire more of our alumni to make Martin Luther King Day a day on and not a day off!

HOBY Hugs!



Eric Petersen is an alumnus of HOBY Arizona 1994 and currently serves as the Director of Operations, Alumni Advisor and CLeW director for HOBY Arizona.  He is Region H RPD and Project Coach for ALA Birmingham.

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