It’s one of those things that’s been lauded by presidents and preachers alike. Its place and purpose in society is indispensable. It is known for bringing out the best in people and connecting people. What is it? Service.

It has been explained as many things. Muhammad Ali referred to service as “the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Famed scientist and inventor George Washington Carver declared it as the truest measure of one’s success in life. And it was none other than Jesus Christ himself who admonished his followers that whoever desired to be great among them must be chief in service to others.

Service is not only an essential element of citizenship, but also of leadership.

So it is that during this time of year, communities across the nation, rightly honor and emulate one of America’s greatest servant-leaders — Martin Luther King Jr. — by issuing a clarion call to service in a variety of ways.

It was King who so eloquently noted, “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 only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Saturday, Feb. 2, the MLK Jr. Day of Service hosted by Mobile United, is a day when local hearts full of grace and souls generated by love for their community can come out and participate in a valuable act of service.

From 8:30-11:30 a.m., Mobilians can meet at Tricentennial Park for the 1- and 3-Mile Creek Cleanup, or at the Walmart on the east Interstate 65 Service Road South for the Eslava Creek Canal Cleanup. Mobile United’s Natural Resources Committee coordinates the event.

This particular event has a focus on the environment, but according to Mobile United Executive Director Michele Rumpf, it fits into a larger belief that “community involvement is critical for anything to get done. … When we work together, we build relationships and trust with people/organizations we may not have met otherwise, we accomplish more and public awareness increases through the actual work and word-of-mouth.”

Members of the community working together and with a purpose cannot just help transform our physical environment, but our schools, our neighborhoods and the way we relate to each other overall. A commitment to service can be impactful in many ways.

According to Rumpf, Mobile United desires to implement a larger vision to increase a commitment to service and community involvement among Mobilians. It starts with a revised organizational mission statement that declares, “We unite the community through deliberative dialogue to train, convene and engage individuals for positive action.”

The “5:30 Forum” will be the primary vehicle to facilitate the convening aspect of Mobile United’s mission.

Rump notes, “The purpose of the 5:30 Forums will be to bring the community together over dinner to discuss topics important to the community. The Forums will feature a moderated speaker panel that will interact with the audience, so that it’s more of a conversation taking place between those present.”

The first 5:30 Forum will be held Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Moe’s Original Bar B Cue downtown. Topics to be discussed are the role of the faith community in improving Mobile, Project Thrive — an initiative of the Mobile Police Department created to close the gap between the victims of traumatic events and the services those individuals need to recover — and the feasibility study about creating a city school system. All are welcome to attend.

A community thrives or languishes according to the involvement and commitment of its members. As members dialogue and connect with one another, deeper understanding among diverse individuals and groups can be formed. From this understanding can come the increased involvement and commitment needed for the community to thrive.

It was King who so powerfully observed, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” In other words, how are you serving?

Hopefully, many Mobilians will ponder this question and respond by committing to engage in acts of service, not just on Saturday, Feb. 2, but throughout the year by taking time out to listen and dialogue in events like the 5:30 Forum and participating in other events hosted by Mobile United and like-minded organizations.

King’s call to service was not for one day in the year, but a call to commit to consistently finding ways to be involved in and positively impact the lives of others. Consistency and sincerity are the keys to true service. Service is the key to transforming our community.