The community of Evanston observed Martin Luther King Day in many places and many ways: with speeches, marches, discussions, artistic performances and community service.
These celebrations, no matter how uplifting, always leave a sense of sadness. The sadness is not just mourning but melancholy, because Dr. King’s vision of the possibilities for this country leave us not just with hope but with a sense of how far short of the dream we remain.
The country is bucking a headwind of unemployment, income inequality and unequal access to health-care and education when compared with many developed nations. Evanston struggles with its share of these and other problems.
The safety net here in Evanston, though stretched almost to gossamer by funding cuts and increasing needs, is still reinforced by dedicated staff and stalwart volunteers. They show up not just on holidays when everyone is looking but also in the biting chill of winter, the suffocating heat of summer and on those miraculous balmy, blue-sky days when everyone just wants to float away on the gentle wind of the moment.
Such is the spirit of Evanston in these post-King days, when we are flagging internally, fighting bitter partisan wars at home and frightening battles abroad.
These social service organizations and the spirit of volunteerism that pervades Evanston are vital to the welfare of our frailest residents – and thus to the fabric of our community. They are a light for our quest for social justice, a sword and a spear against poverty, hunger, mental illness, family fragmentation and other societal ills.
With a nod to the ancient wish for swords to be transformed into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, we wish for these organizations a similar blessed obsolescence. What could be better for them than to be put out of business for lack of need?
Then we can all spend the next day of service at the beach.