If you’ve ever had to manage a process, project, or any other type of objective from start to finish, you know that there are some trials and tribulations that will come across your journey. You’ll burn the midnight oil, lose a few hours sleep and maybe miss a party/happy hour/extracurricular activity or two to make sure that things are done the way they should.

This is how you build character; to sacrifice for the greater good of progress; to put others’ needs above your very own.

Of course, when we bring Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King into the discussion, we’re not quite talking about putting together an Excel spreadsheet or a Powerpoint presentation but rather the fight for equality for an entire race, culture and way of life.

I pondered writing something about MLK for the actual holiday, partially because I felt obligated to do so. It’s not something that needs explanation, but if you knew me then you’d know that I have various affiliations to the progress that Martin Luther King had made for the life we live in this day. So I began to do some research (i.e. Google), and the photo above caught my attention. Once I clicked on the photo, the description of the snapshot made me pause:

Of particular note is a photograph showing the baseball icon Jackie Robinson, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. King in their academic gowns, taken on June 7, 1957, when they each received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the university. Robinson, who had just retired from professional baseball earlier that year, was beginning to show his age in this image, while the youthful King—less than thirty years old—looks self-confident and serene.

Jackie Robinson was a weathered, seasoned, been through the ringer 38 years old. There are gentlemen that I hang out with currently that are 38 years old and don’t look a day older than me. Maybe they were blessed with the gene pool, but I’d imagine that my friends hadn’t quite encountered some of the trials and tribulations that Robinson had.

Everyone should know the story of Jackie Robinson, the man who became the first black Major League Baseball (MLB) player of the modern era. At age 38, the man had graduated from UCLA while lettering in four sports (basketball, football, track and….baseball), served two years in the military, played in the negro/minor leagues for two years and had a ten-year career as the prominent professional black athlete for the 40’s and 50’s.

But you knew all that….right?

The poignant thing about the description is that the writer could vividly recollect seeing the “age” being worn on the face of Robinson, while King, age 28, seemed young and spry, being totally oblivious to what his future path had in front of him, which was to be the civil rights activist that this country needed and to be the person that folks all across the globe could follow as an example.

What King would endure over the next ten years brought about a revolution; yet, he wouldn’t make it to see his 40th birthday. King openly knew that his phone was tapped, that folks wanted to kill him and that anything could possibly happen to him while pushing the movement forward. It’s a type of stress that most of us know nothing about.

Robinson passed away four years later, as health problems and a life of living hell had wore the man down at age 53.

Think about how weathered Brother President (Obama) looks, now four years into his presidency. Think about the health issues that Steve Jobs had while at Apple, ultimately passing at age 55. Heck, even Biggie and Pac were constantly stressed and paranoid of what was going on, and we know how that ended up.

From politics, to technology, to hip-hop….to civil rights on the playing field and in our daily walk…progress was necessary. It’s a shame that we lose those that we love, especially when it seems that it was too soon. What they did for a nation isn’t quantifiable, but it’s the reason why the holiday that honors Dr. King is something much more than just a “day off.”

The “day of service” pays homage to a man who served for all of us and hit a home run in the process. Enjoy your Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and do something great in the process.