09: MLK Day Musings

January 15, 2018

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a time to recognize, honor, and reflect on the times. Today I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Dr. King, when he spoke to an audience in Montgomery, AL in 1957:

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

The easy answer is that we do what we can for others only after our own needs are met. This is “two pocket thinking” where we invest in ourselves out of one pool of effort/funds and invest in philanthropy out of another. The second pocket is usually much smaller, if it exists at all.

You have seen it before – “paying it forward,” is an act where the person benefitting from a good deed repays it with a good deed for someone else. I’ve personally seen this in action at Starbucks where the previous customer paid for my drink, prompting me to pay for the next, and so on. Some places have boards where you can reserve a drink or meal for someone who can’t pay.  Brilliant concept that doesn’t cost much, but it’s still rare because we’re still thinking out of two pockets.

What if we had one pocket; where we can do good for others while we take care of our needs? Are you thinking “I can’t pay it forward every time?” When I posed this question to friends that’s usually the first response.  There’s always a way:

  • Shop at stores with a commitment to giving back a percentage of profits or time. You can even do this at Amazon.
  • Choose a community-sourced service / product over an import.
  • Got a skill? Consider teaching it to others by blogging or an online school.
  • Mentor others who will commit to paying it forward.

I’ve committed to doing all of these things. I think of MLK day as a commitment to a one-pocket thinking and I hope maybe you will do.

What are you doing for others and how are you giving back? Please leave a comment!

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