Martin Luther King Jr. Day was perfectly sunny and mild, and an opportune day to spend an afternoon cleaning up picturesque Phillipi Estate Park. Our guides were knowledgeable in both the natural and human history of the park, teaching us how to identify the invasive plants and explaining the different types of litter we might find. Indeed, we collected quite a bit, from fishing lures to old boots and hunks of Styrofoam, we filled many large bags with trash. Seeing all of that litter, one couldn’t help but feel sad about our strained relationship to nature, but this served to make the work of maintaining a cleaner environment feel all the more impactful.
After our work was complete, we had a time of fellowship in which we shared a hearty lunch that we prepared in advance. We were each given a copy of Dr. King’s famous Lincoln Memorial “I Have a Dream” speech to reflect upon the impact and power of his words and his peaceful demeanor as a civil rights activist. Our group, diverse in age and culture and color, felt grateful for the spirit of service. Not only did we physically engage with our wonderful natural world, but we symbolically broke the chains of apathy and disregard for our world, as Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago, broke the stubbornness of inequitable convention to promote love and equality for all people.