On Monday, thousands of people participated in the MLK365 March for a Dream. The purpose of the march was to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and bring together people from diverse backgrounds to inspire positive change in our communities and our world.
In an era of heightened political, racial and cultural divisiveness all over the world, the event took on fresh significance. One fellow marcher noted that she believed that the progress she has seen in her lifetime seems to have disappeared, if there had been any at all. She became more disheartened when she witnessed a smaller, competing MLK march taking place, heading in the opposite direction of the main march. While a physical collision was fortunately averted, the clashing ideas between the two groups remain unresolved.
In any event, the march rekindled my memory of when I got word of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember during my sophomore year in high school I was waiting for a ride after finishing an after-school activity. It was an early Thursday evening and I was hanging out with friends as I leaned against the wall of the school. Suddenly, one of my classmates frantically ran up and tearfully said, “Martin Luther King was killed.” I didn’t fully comprehend it at the time, but a sense of innocence was extinguished for many of us at the moment.
I had little appreciation of the power of Dr. King’s philosophy of Non-Violence and 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 and impatient friends and classmates, thought his philosophy was impractical and foolish.
Over the years, I learned a number of powerful lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lessons of truth that can help us individually and collectively fulfill our potential as spiritual and human beings, and uplift our collective consciousness.
Here are a few of them:
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.”
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 facts may appear at any given 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.”
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 K Gandhi before him, called upon his followers to adhere to a higher standard. He 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.”
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.”
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 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of the great transformational leaders in contemporary history. The best way to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to practice the ideals and ideas he believed in. Despite the challenges of our day, we are to stay the course by remembering Dr. King’s words, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Peace and Blessings,