Sermon on Service
Senator Melanie Levesque
Hollis Community Church
February 17, 2019
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak and reflect on Martin Luther King and on service.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle… (or) Einstein’s Theory of Relativity … (or) the Second Theory of Thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” These are the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Many of you serve; Tanya and Catherine are our faith leaders, Sanjay Cherian and Jim Squires are Moderators, there are Deacons, Trustees and Outreach. Beth serves as the music coordinator. There are Boy scout leaders and schoolboard members. Jim Squires and Peggy Gilmour served as State Senators. The opportunities to serve are endless “You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
I learned about service from my mother, Betty Perkins who raised 6 children on her own yet always educated herself, worked hard as a dietician for the VA Hospital, yet always made time to volunteer with the church or in the community. I remember the spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfast well. My mom was also a cub scout leader. Pinewood derby’s and the cub scout laws were familiar in my household.
All that she did while raising a family on her own makes me think of the saying always ask a busy person……
When I was 18, my mother died of Colon cancer, which today is a treatable disease, she was only 47. My youngest brother and sister lived with my older brother and his wife in our family home. Life was very difficult for them and when I was called to the hospital to pick up my little brother Mark, I found him on the stretcher almost 6 feet tall and bloody. He was not that little boy I had left months ago. My boyfriend Scott, now my husband, and I took him home and the following week my sister Cindy joined us.
We became a family unit, Scott and I, Mark and Cindy. They taught me about family being needed and belonging. They taught me about stepping up without knowing I was doing so. I am so proud of my brother and sister who graduated from UNH and WPI and became successful in business. Mark is partner in a law firm and Cindy is my business partner and dear friend.
A turning point in my life was when my daughter Logan was born I realized I was not only responsible for her but the world around her. I was also looking for a way to give back to my community. Having earned my MBA at Southern NH University, I had the great fortune of education, a good job and a loving family.
I worked to form a branch of the NAACP in Nashua hoping that I could help to improve the lives of other people of color. We held bi-partisan political action forums and education forums where we learned about concepts like educating the whole child. I was appointed to the Mayors Ethnic Awareness committee which gave me insight to the needs of the Nashua community.
It was at an NAACP meeting that I met the Honorable Jackie Wetherspoon, one of the Representatives who worked to make Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. She inspired me. She was an African America woman like me. I could see myself in her. It was then that I knew not only that I wanted to be a state representative but that I could be a state representative.
I went home to Brookline and found my community. I went to town meetings, to the transfer stations, chicken barbeque’ s and community dinners. I got to know my community. In 2006 I won my first election and was proud to serve Hollis Brookline and Mason for 4 years until redistricting when Hollis was no longer part of the district.
I served for 6 of the past 10 years taking the last 4 years off although not by choice. Having a passion for education I decided to run for the Hollis Brookline schoolboard where I currently serve. In 2018 after confirming that our amazing Senator Peggy Gilmour was not going to run for Senate I knew it was time for me to step up.
With a gulp in my throat and frankly scared to death of this potential commitment I took the time needed to own it and understand this had to be the next step. Reverend King said, “You don’t always have to see the whole staircase before you take the first step.” It occurred to me that all my life I have been taking steps. Not always knowing where I was going but that it was leading somewhere, and it would all make sense someday.
In 2018 I won my election for State Senate and am honored to serve as your Senator in NH statehouse and to be the first Senator of color is also an honor. I hope to do good work in the Senate and I hope that just as Jackie Wetherspoon inspired me I can inspire young boys and girls to know that they to can be anything they set their minds to.
We talked about service. But you can’t have service without community. Our community is Hollis and Brookline but also within our church we have a community. In our church we had an opportunity to tell our stories and share a part ourselves with our members, as a result we have a deeper closer relationship with each other. It warms my heart when we say the Lord’s prayer and you hear Jocelyn’s little voice articulately praying with us. When you hear the chatter of voices and laughter of people enjoying themselves well after coffee hour is over, when members of the church with hidden talents chose to serve in our praise band and when you ask for help and everyone chips in and answers the call. This is community and service.
Our community is not just our town or state but our county. When a school shooting occurs or a people worshipping in their synagogue or church are killed or a raging fire demolishes homes and lives are lost we all feel the pain and we want to know what we can do to help. How can we serve.
And when a 12-year-old girl from Stockholm Sweden, a member of our Global community, and her fellow students stage a walk out of school because of their concerns for climate change and the impacts on the world that they will inherit. Whether you believe in it or not we can’t help but listen.
We talked about Service and Community but how do we find that community. How do we come together when we are so different? The answer is Decency. Decency is something we seem to have lost in our discourse. 1St Corinthians 13:1 says If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
To serve your community you must realize the diversity of ideas ideals and thoughts. And to live together as a community there must be understanding and respect. There must be decency Rev King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend” If we can remember these words and proceed with decency we will serve our community with the compassion and grace that our Lord God asks of us.
Our band, New Beginnings, sings a song If I had a Hammer. I’m sure you know a version of it. My dad sang it and I believe Peter Paul and Mary sang it. We sing it differently a little more contemplative, more soulful I will say that when I sang the words it was like I was hearing it for the very first time. I then understood that we are the instrument the tool, the hammer that we are the bell and we must continue to sing the song of love between our bothers and sisters all over this land.