I still remember the moment I got the news.
It was my sophomore year in high school, and I was waiting for a ride after finishing up an after-school activity. It was an early Thursday evening, and I was hanging out with friends as I leaned against the school wall. Suddenly, one of my classmates frantically ran up and tearfully said, "Somebody killed Martin Luther King."
I didn't fully comprehend it then, but our world killed a sense of innocence for many of us at that moment. I had little appreciation of the power of Dr. King’s philosophy of Non-Violence or spiritual perspective until I began to study them more closely years after his death. Like several of my young and impatient friends and classmates, I thought his philosophy was impractical and foolish.
Over the years, I learned a few powerful lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including lessons of truth that can help us fulfill our potential as spiritual and human beings.
Here are those lessons:
1. Love, even people 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 appear. In that iconic speech, he speaks of new possibilities for society. "I 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. Some resorted to violence during the Civil Rights Movement to advance the cause. Many did not. Like Mahatma K Gandhi before him, Dr. King 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.”
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 the speech, "The Drum Major Instinct", Dr. King proclaims, “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 indeed one of the great transformational leaders in contemporary history. As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, we thank him. Happy birthday, Martin.
Peace and Blessings,