According to a recently released Gallup Poll, nearly 80% of Americans believe the country is split over the most important values. Just one-fifth of those polled see America as united. Half the populace believes there will be further divides in the future. Similar sentiments exist across the planet.
Yet we know that, spiritually, we are all interconnected. We are all part of one human/spiritual family.
As we approach the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend celebrations, it behooves us to look at some of the lessons we can glean from this spiritual leader and civil rights icon. They are instructions that will not only help us realize our oneness, but also live out our potential as spiritual beings.
Admittedly, I had little appreciation of the power of Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolence and his spiritual perspective on life until I began to study it more closely over the years after his death. I, like a number of my young, impatient friends and classmates, thought his philosophy was impractical and foolish.
Over the years, I've learned a number of powerful lessons from Dr. King. These lessons of truth can help us, individually and collectively, fulfill our potential as spiritual and human beings. Here are a few:
1. Love, even those we don't like. Dr. King once stopped an armed mob and said, "We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we live by. We must meet hate with love."
2. Paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow. The essence of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech focused on creating a clear, new future regardless of how the facts appeared at the moment. In that iconic speech, he speaks of new possibilities for society. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
3. Act according to your highest values. During the Civil Rights Movement, many were tempted to resort to violence to advance the cause. Some did. Dr. King, like Mahatma Gandhi before him, called upon his followers to adhere to a higher standard. King reminded his followers, "We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
4. We are all interconnected. Dr. King poignantly stated, "In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality."
5. Be of service. In his speech "The Drum Major Instinct," Dr. King proclaims that, "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
These are just some of the lessons learned from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was indeed one of the great transformational leaders in contemporary history. So as we honor Dr. King, let us say, "Thank you and happy birthday, Martin."
More importantly, let's put his lessons into practice to help create a society and a world that works for all.
Peace and Blessings,
P.S. Help me and our SLC family honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy at the 36th annual March for the Dream this Monday. Meet us at 8:45 a.m. at the Sacramento City College Book Store to walk the whole route or meet us later at the Fox & Goose parking lot at 10th and R Streets to walk a shorter distance. Find out more at marchforthedream.org.
And please plan to be with us for "Stepping Into Our Vision in 2017," a congregational meeting on Sunday, January 22, at 12:30 p.m. At this time in history, we have the opportunity to do something we've never done before. What does our mission of Love, Serve and Remember look like in the 21st Century and how can you get involved? You won't want to miss this meeting!