‘Living out his words’




By Ashley Hartzell, AmeriCorps VISTA member

It’s easy for me to find direct inspiration from one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s many passionate, perfectly worded quotes. No man delivered a message of hope, love, struggle and triumph quite like he did.

There’s one quote from Dr. King that directly informs a unique partnership undertaken by Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., for our National Day of Service in his honor. “Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal,” he said. “It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself.”

This year on MLK Day, DC Habitat will host volunteers from the Bethesda Jewish Congregation, Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church and the Jaferia Islamic Center. These three groups have a special relationship beyond this one day. Bradley Hills Presbyterian and Bethesda Jewish Congregation came together in 1967 — they share a worship space, practice their distinct religions respectfully and serve collectively. In 2006, they added the Jaferia Islamic Center to their unique friendship.

I cannot think of a better way to honor Dr. King on his respected day than to work alongside this group of people who are the epitome of coming together in their diversity to do good. These three groups live out his words, his ideas, as one. So on Jan. 16, I’ll join these volunteers and other AmeriCorps members on two construction sites in the Ivy City neighborhood. There, with every hammered nail and every wood plank laid down, we will live out Dr. King’s legacy through our service.