Charles E. Richardson

A Superior Court judge’s unusual New Year’s Resolution

Last Monday was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday celebration. The civil rights leader would have been 89 years old if he had lived. And for the 28th year, the M.L.K. Breakfast Committee held its annual celebration of King’s life and accomplishments.

Up front, here’s my conflict of interest announcement. I served as the emcee for this year’s breakfast. I have served in that capacity in the past and hope to serve in any way I can in the future. I have attended every breakfast from its founding in the basement of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church when there was no gymnasium to its stint at L.H. Williams Elementary School to True Faith Church of God in Christ back to St. Peter Claver. Are we clear? Crystal.

What keeps the planning committee together and people coming back year after year? There are no egos, only a spirit of service to the life and legacy of Dr. King.

The event always features a speaker, and this year the committee out kicked its coverage (ask any old, worn out football player what that means if you don’t know). Superior Court Judge Verda Colvin accepted that role, but she was up against heavy competition even she couldn’t overwhelm. I’ll explain later.

Judge Colvin said in her address that she had made a special New Year’s Resolution, and she challenged each of us to follow suit. She resolved to perform two acts of kindness to people not part of her family or friends, not yearly, not monthly, not weekly, but daily.

Two acts of kindness that may or may not be noticed by the recipients. She gave an example: A grocery store parking lot, where people leave their shopping carts in areas where they could damage other cars. What if a, “somebody,” decided to take a runaway cart and put it in the cart return station? The person trying to park would never know of this act of kindness.

Colvin was talking to roughly 300 people. If each one followed her lead that would be 4,200 acts of kindness in a single week. If the spirit of kindness spread to 1,000 people? You catch Judge Colvin’s point.

It is an intentional message that we have to give ourselves and it is an easy resolution to keep, unlike the ones dealing with exercise and weight loss. There was also an alignment of planets moment. There were “Smile Cards” given out at the breakfast. The organizers of this portion had no idea that Judge Colvin was going to focus on random acts of kindness during her address.

These smile cards, available at Washington Library and on the web at are given every time you perform an act of kindness. And that card is supposed to be passed on when the person given the card performs an act of kindness.

Now to the question, why did Judge Colvin’s speech face heavy competition?

Shortly before Judge Colvin’s address, young preschool students from M.A. Evans Academy, under the direction of Mary A. Stephens, recited, by memory and in unison, a long — and I mean long — portion of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. They recited the part full of words such as “interposition” and “nullification.”

They clearly enunciated sentences such as, “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” and they knew to bring to a crescendo, “Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

And finally, they brought it home, just as King did some 55 years ago: “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

I stood there, holding tears back, realizing that King’s dream is being fulfilled.