Bowed heads and lowered eyes covered Cardinal Hall as John Smith, pastor of prayer house of deliverance, blessed the room before they broke bread with their neighbors.

While there were many notable members of Muncie at the MLK Community Breakfast in L.A. Pittenger Student Center Monday including mayor Dennis Tyler, president Geoffrey Mearns and the Collective Coalition of Concerned Clergy, other individuals had made their appearance for the first time like Larry Whiting.

“I’ve worked all my life and I really didn’t have an opportunity to come here,” Whiting said.

A railroad worker and full-time father of two, Whiting has had help from Chaz Smith, community relations director of Muncie Mission.

Smith, who has attended the MLK breakfast for the last several years, has always taken away something positive. He said his favorite portion of the breakfast is honoring the scholastic achievements of high school students.

“It’s an opportunity for unity in our community,” Smith said.

Mearns mentioned his nervousness for speaking before he began. His speech started with his distinct upbringing from a family of nine siblings and two parents in Shaker Heights, Ohio, who believed in unity and community.

While Mearns spent much of his time discussing his family and notable cases he won after law school, he remembered the case that had little media attention but received the best outcome possible — allowing a man to see his son one more time.

“The lesson is one of persistence. The lesson is one of hope. The lesson is once of optimism,” Mearns said.

Mearns said through simple acts of kindness and compassion, one can remove a brick from the walls that divide a community and build a new one centered on unity.

He ended saying, “Let’s build that community right here, right now.”

 Contact Gabbi Mitchell with comments at gnmitchell@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Gabbi_Mitchell.