One of my favorite commentaries on the need for community is a little known Martin Luther King, Jr. speech titled “The World House.” He delivered this speech on December 11, 1964, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. I believe it’s important to reflect upon his vision especially now, during Black History month, and to live out his words all year round .In the speech he says, “We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” Furthermore, he specifically implores us to address the evils of racism, the scourge of poverty and find an alternative to war. While he is better known for other words, King regarded “The World House” as one of his most important speeches.
King’s idea of a “World House” broadens our view of community by asking us to think outside of our families and our cities to include our country and the world. The ReachOut! program carries on King’s mission in its own way. We ask Jewish young adults to step outside of their immediate community (religious, cultural, racial, ethnic, class, neighborhood, age, etc.) and recognize the needs of people in the Greater Boston area. Because we live in an interrelated society, I am connected to the homeless man in Harvard Square. Just last year, ReachOut! participants at the Egleston Y had the chance to help the youth in that community come together and heal after a shooting claimed one of their neighbors, as an unexpected aspect of their community service. MLK says it best: “The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother.”
“The World House” is MLK’s call to action. We can no longer afford to be “comfortable” and “complacent” or apathetically accept injustice. ReachOut! offers us a way to answer this call for action. Volunteering is taking action to change the world you live in. As MLK said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” How will you change the world? How will you answer the call to action?
Aliza Krevolin is the service learning co-coordinator for the ReachOut! Steering Committee. She volunteers her own time for women’s rights, Middle East peace, universal health care, transgender rights, housing justice and access to affordable higher education. She is in her final semester of a Masters in Macro Social Work at Boston University, and currently works at Charles Group Consulting. In her spare time, she does bhangra dancing, makes her own jewelry and occasionally dresses as a colonial lady in historical reenactments.