How Does Dr. King’s Legacy Relate to Hostels?

It was a natural question for travelers having breakfast yesterday morning in the light filled dining room of the HI-Chicago hostel.

I was in Chicago for two days on a separate mission: to interview candidates for a regional vice president job for the emerging new HI-USA.  Yet, in the short time I was there, I too had seen the transformation of the hostel dining room into a gallery of expansive MLK-themed murals by student artists who had used the floor-to-ceiling windows as their canvas.

Above: Student mural at the HI-Chicago hostel.

Why would a hostel have these murals celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King?

Dr. King believed that people’s lack of understanding of each other creates a fear in the “other”, which fosters prejudice and injustice.  Our hostels are one small but powerful answer.

Our hostels attract travelers of widely varying backgrounds and cultures.   They enable the sort of conversations that break down destructive stereotypes and build understanding.

Our hostels are a mixing bowl of peoples and cultures from which informed world perspectives rise.

Of course, beyond remembrance, Martin Luther King Day is a day of service.  Dr. King’s idea of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in thought and action is evidenced each year by hundreds of thousands of Americans coming together to volunteer in community projects around the country.

That’s why HI-USA hostels in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC support groups doing community work during the 40 days of service with free overnight stays in the Great Hostel Give Back.  Other examples of hostel projects abound: collecting used coats for community residents in San Francisco, working on a watershed restoration project in Portland, Oregon, collecting art supplies for a local charter school in San Diego, and sponsoring college students for a leadership seminar in Columbus, Ohio.

About last year’s Great Hostel Give Back, a group leader from Flint Corps at the University of Michigan-Flint said:

 “The Great Hostel Give back is an extraordinary program.   Without it, our group would not have been able to afford this trip.  The hostel was the perfect environment for our group – the hostel community was welcoming, receptive, and the perfect space for sharing of ideas.  Successful service requires reflection and sharing – all of which occur in the hostel on a daily basis.  The intercultural makeup of the guests provides opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue.”

It’s all about fostering understanding.

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