WASHINGTON — "Everybody can be great.... because anybody can serve," Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said. "You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
Even while they wondered when they'd get their next paycheck, some furloughed federal workers and contractors were helping others on MLK Day. Several volunteered with the Urban League's Thursday Network.
"This is how we're making America great again," said Kyle Williams, who was among the scores of volunteers putting together blankets, notes, and toiletry kits for the homeless at the Rocketship Rise Academy, a charter school in Southeast, D.C.
"There are other folks out there who are way more unfortunate than myself," said Williams, a cyber security contractor at the IRS who had to scramble to keep getting paid in the midst of the partial government shutdown. "We cannot leave any American behind right now."
Candice Helton was furloughed from the State Department.
"I might not have a paycheck, but I have a roof over my head," she said. "And I have friends around me and organizations that support me."
Despite their own insecurity, many furloughed workers and contractors have hearts filled with grace. They're out helping others on a National Day of Service inspired by Dr. King's example.
"It really shows what his vision was and what his passion was, to continuously serve others, even if you're suffering," said Kristin Shymoniak, president of the Thursday Network, a group of young leaders that organized the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Blanket and Toiletry Drive.
On a bitterly cold day, serving others can warm your soul.
"I think it was about 13 degrees when I woke up," said Shymoniak. "Just to give them a blanket. To give them socks and a hat...."