As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 19, I can’t help but think about the tumultuous times we seem to find ourselves in lately. We could certainly use his steady hand, implacable courage and profound faith to lead us in meeting these new challenges. They seem to be everywhere, whether it’s an issue of race relations, continued economic inequality or terrorism emanating from some misguided interpretation of religion.
Yet any history about Dr. King’s activities reveals that he too lived through turbulent times. From leading the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, to standing tall during the march to Selma, Alabama, he organized people who had a sense of purpose, a commitment to nonviolence and a willingness to engage in the struggle. Dr. King truly laid the groundwork to, admittedly -- an imperfect society in which we live today, but his impact contributed to a far more progressive world than the one he confronted.
I believe that holidays which celebrate great men, such as Dr. King, offer us a unique moment of reflection and meaning. Don’t treat this upcoming Monday as simply another “day off from work.” Rather, when Martin Luther King Day arrives, I would offer the simplest of suggestions: Make one gesture that adds to the betterment of someone you come in contact with....take the time to roll up your sleeves and get "invested" in your community to make a difference...or simply sit down for five minutes and ask: How can I help someone?
An act of grace is a gesture that everyone understands. On a personal level, I want to add that I regard Martin Luther King Day as a call to unity for ALL people regardless of race,ethnicity, religious beliefs or socioeconomic class. I’m not the first to suggest this, but it is something in which I believe: In the United States today, the citizens of this great nation have much more in common than what we might believe are our differences.
It’s a matter of unity. If we look at each other maintaining an inflexible mantle of individuality, we will falter. But if we recall, despite different backgrounds, cultures, historical experience and perspective, that we are one nation — that we are in this together — then we are more apt to blunt our differences and more prone to see that we are united in a common cause.
We all must answer the call in our own way, and I truly believe that response, no matter how minor or unrecorded it is, matters because it adds to the tapestry we weave as individuals, as families, as a nation and, yes, as partners in our global world. Whether you are a legislator who seeks to promote laws that benefit society or an individual with a simple kind word or gesture for someone who is different from you, we all become better for it. This is a time to recall, as did Dr. King, that righteousness prevails and a good deed and a commitment to unity as a people allow you to have a personal peek at the Promised Land.
"But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.