Thoughts on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Image Source: Idealist Blog

I am writing this post in the wake of Martin Luther King day. This is a post where I hope you can read with the intention to discover something within yourself as I am doing that alongside you as I write.

Yesterday was a very average, normal day for me, pleasant of course, but normal. We woke up at 5 AM and got ready for the day. I dropped my son, Asa, off at his sitter’s house and headed to work. My husband got on the bus and headed to work. After a full day of work, I got in our car, Josh got on the bus, and eventually all three of us ended up back at home. We had a great dinner with friends and then settled in for a good night’s rest to start again the next day.

Later that night I began to reflect about the significance of Martin Luther King Day. I mean it only seems right to reflect on something that we have dedicated an entire day to, right? How odd is it that I can have such a normal, unaffected day, when in reality, something in history had happened that was so significant that we needed a day to remember it. That got me thinking…would MLK have wanted us to have one day to reflect and act? Or would he have preferred that our lives constantly reflect the principles that he spoke of and believed in? My guess would be the latter. He would care about how our character was expressed in our relationships and actions daily. He would care about what your “normal” days look like, not just the day that we are supposed to do something on. So, let’s look into this a bit deeper…

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

 

Individualistic concerns and culture. King’s quote describes individualistic concerns as narrow and uses the word broad in contrast. To me, the narrow he describes is that of tunnel vision, being so caught up with one thing, this being ourselves, that we are unable to accurately perceive the world around us. In contrast, broad tends to indicate more space or even the idea that space is readily available. Which word do you think describes our culture?

As much as I would like to shout, BROAD! I know that would be a lie. In some ways we have masked the word narrow with the word personal. We now have personal cell phones, personal water bottles, personal you-name-it-and-it-exists. We have taken everything that was once considered broad and made a personal version of it. “You think that bag of chips is great? Well, here is your very own personal size!” “You like talking to your friends in a group? Great! Here is your personal phone so you can send them messages without even having to see them in person.” We have lost the ability to even think in a broad capacity and are programed to think in a personal format. Why venture out where there are other people when we can do everything from the comfort of our own home?

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

 

Ask yourself, what are the broader concerns of all humanity? I bet a vast array of things pop up. The abortion issue. Malnutrition and starvation in third world countries. Human trafficking. Homelessness. Violence against homosexuality. The list can go on and depending on what you are passionate about, there will be specific “hot” issues that stick out. But I want to suggest that maybe the concern that needs to be addressed most is not one of those in your face issues. Could it be that we are simply not concerned with each other? Are we suffering from the lack of community? In all honesty, I even wonder if we truly understand what community means, looks like, and feels like anymore.

I do not think that we would be so irately concerned with each others difference in opinions if we first looked to learning how to live amongst one another, tending to each others needs, and learning to love those who are different than ourselves. I think that healthy discourse might exist naturally if there was a common love and respect for our neighbors. I think that if we actively cared and reached out, there would be less room to oppress one another.

It is important for me to point out that I am not suggesting that you or I actively strive to live a non-community based life. I am more or less suggesting that in addition to not being culturally inclined, it is constantly being reinforced to take care of yourself first, then look to others. This is the social norm and we listen.

Where do we go from here? Is there hope for change? To be honest, I don’t know. I could give you a nice answer wrapped in pretty words and promises but I won’t. I think that moving forward in creating community probably looks different for everyone. You might already be there and are just waiting and hoping for your peers to look beyond themselves to join you. You could also be on the other end of the spectrum and be utterly content in living a very personal life. I guess the only thing that I do know is that I think we need honest, raw community and probably need to be raw and honest to get there.

Can you imagine how different the world would look if genuine community existed? Community that is not afraid to cry together or rejoice together. A community that does not resort to acts of division, hatred, and oppression no matter the struggle or stimulating issue but a community that loves, forgives, and does life together. We could eliminate starvation, homelessness, loneliness, maybe even bitterness towards others who are different than us. Things would begin to matter in a whole new way.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

In closing (to this semi-jumbled, somewhat idealistic but passionate reflection), I do not think it is surprising that King was a minister. The words he spoke reflected the very words and principles that were taught by Jesus. King relied heavily on prayer to sustain his movement, and taught that loving others is of critical importance. As a believer myself, I have to ask myself, how can the world look like this today then? Why the obsessive emphasis on the personal? Where has real community gone?

 Not only do we have the words of Christ to guide us, but we have the powerful words and passions of disciples who came after him. Yet we still aren’t listening. My plea to you (and myself) is to look at our own lives, what we view as important, and how aware we are of those around us. Let’s evaluate what really matters and then do something about it. Start small and end big.

We can at least try.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:34-35 

The bolded quotes were spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and can be found here, as well as many of his other inspirational quotes. What a blessed man.

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