Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the first people I want to meet when I get to heaven because he dared to have a dream.  The God-given hope and direction of a man who was a gifted preacher and prophet filled the nation’s Capital fifty years ago today.  What a wonderful world it would be if we could all have even a sliver of that same hope. 

The walk on Washington was not a particular memory for me at the time.  I was too young to understand.  My mother does remember watching it on television.  However, the event four months later would become my earliest, defined memory.

In my earliest years, I do remember watching riots on the television and seeing dogs attacking people and water being used to subdue and disperse crowds.  These images were disturbing for a child.  One of the best gifts my parents gave me was a love for all people and a living example of The Golden Rule.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, I asked my mother what a “negro” was.  She told me that M. was a negro.  M. worked for my grandparents and I had known her all of my life.  “Oh, her skin is a different color.”  I was already being raised to judge a person by the content of their character.

Although it was not for good, I have been judged by the color of my skin.  Neither were pleasant experiences and both were desperate attempts to gain power.  One was to make sure I was white and the other was because I wasn’t black.  This was at a time of great racial tension in the education system, when integration and busing were struggles in every community.  I was living in a different state each time.

In this day and time, I think most people have been judged by the color of their skin.  Our country has a rainbow of colors.  A few years ago, my family toured The King Center in Atlanta.  For me, it was a reverent time of reflection, reminding me again of the importance of Dr. King’s message.  I felt the same feeling of reverence when I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  These places stand as more than a monument to a persecuted people but also as a twisted monument to the human soul when hate takes anchor, pulling a nation downward.

I stood in line that day in Atlanta, waiting to sign a book of reflection.  A young African-American woman was in front of me, writing a few sentences.  She stepped away from the book. Imagine my shock when I looked down and read her racist comments.  I wrote a few words and came away, amazed that she didn’t get the message which was all around her.

But now, thinking about it, I should not be surprised.  So many things have not changed, especially in the South. 

Every Sunday morning, fine Christian men tuck their shirts into their pants, held up by the Bible Belt of the South.  I have heard their ugly whisperings, directing their hate at an image on the television, judging a man by the color of his skin.  However, their judgments are made impotent by the lack of content in their character.  These same men and women lifting their praises to God on Sunday and  whispering their racist bitterness at lunch the next day.

Many years ago, a senator from Illinois came to town, stumping for a fellow politician.  My Daddy had been following the politics of this young man.  We sat on the steps of the Capital, at the foot of the casual podium, listening to this brief speech.  When you are close enough to hold eye contact with a man, in that brief second there is a bond of relationship.  My Daddy began the last year of his life watching this Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of office as President of the United States.  My father cried tears of joy.  He carried a New Testament in his briefcase and The Prayer of St. Francis in his wallet.  And Jesus in his heart.

Hate is easy because it is natural.  Love is not easy.  But love is the answer today just as it was fifty years ago.   And every day is an opportunity to act on the dream where all are created equal. 

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen



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