What would Martin Luther King Jr. think of society today? It has been over 50 years since the march from Selma to Montgomery and we are still fighting for equality for all. Refugee children are being torn from their parents. Students are being massacred by guns. Workers, especially minorities, are being paid unfair wages. African Americans are being arrested just because of the color of their skin. The list goes on. I can only assume that if Dr. King was still alive, he would continue to fight against injustice. In his day, Dr. King gathered supporters to walk over 50 miles with him from Selma to Montgomery to fight for equal voting rights for African Americans. He was passionate about an issue, and he did not sit back and wait for someone else to take action; he got up and did it himself.
Among the people who marched with Dr. King was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In reference to the walk, Heschel has famously been quoted saying, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” What does praying with your feet mean? What does it look like?
In today’s world, many social issues seem to be obvious and most people are passionate about at least one. While awareness is positive, we need to go one step further. Right now, most Americans voice their opinions and do just that. We need to learn how to pray with our feet—to take action on these issues and make a change.
MLK day, which falls on Jan. 21 this year, is a perfect day to honor Dr. King’s legacy by making a difference in our community. You can do something seemingly small, such as calling your representatives and telling them to vote a certain way on a bill. Or you can take on something larger, like building a house for the homeless. Big or small, anything and everything makes a difference. Dr. King walked 54 miles to fight for what he believed in, and never even saw his dream come true. Yet, he knew he was marching in the right direction.
This MLK day, I will be joining Young Judaea in volunteering with Repair the World to paint classrooms with the Harlem Tutorial Program. By doing this small volunteering act, we will be beautifying a community space that will help Harlem students succeed. This is even more meaningful to me because I will be joining my Jewish community to make a difference. I alone cannot change this world, but together, with my peers, we can make a difference. I am excited to take part in this amazing volunteer opportunity, but it cannot end there. Afterward, I will continue to fight to make sure every student has the resources they need to succeed academically.
As 2019 begins, I challenge you, and myself, to take a little time each day to think about how we can make this world a better place. Put a dollar in your tzedakah box every day, and at the end of the month, decide where you want to donate the money. Once a month, volunteer at a local food pantry. Whatever it is, let’s find something that we are passionate about, and pray with our feet.
Liora Reiken is a senior at White Plains High School. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.