The Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday has stirred my heart more than any other national holiday. Presidents Day is easily forgettable, other than being inspired by words from George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are powerful, but the tone is more on remembrance and thankfulness. Independence Day is mostly a party. Columbus Day? Well, I don’t see many people making much of a fuss about that.
But for 30 years or more, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rings in my heart as a call to action. It’s not a day to celebrate, it’s a day to serve. It’s not a day to merely remember, it’s a day to redeem. It’s not a day to party, it’s a day to pray. It’s not a day to consecrate – it’s a day that calls us to change.
And change is hard.
Change calls us to confront our own shortcomings.
Change calls us to recognize that our elders and our past may harbor some pretty atrocious behavior and beliefs. It calls us to confront that their words and actions may be woven through our language and customs.
Change calls us to humble ourselves.
But change calls us to hope as well. To dream and plan and work for a better world. For all of us.
ALL of us.
I thought about Dr. King frequently this weekend as I watched the story unfold of the altercation between a Native American drummer and a high school boy from Kentucky on the very steps that Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. The story is still unfolding about exactly who did what and what caused all the ruckus, but what troubles me is the commentary I saw in its wake. Calls for the boy to be severely punished. Comments full of anger and hate and a desire to avenge.
Dr. King did not call us to this plan.
He called us to love.
He called us to work for change peacefully.
He called us to forgive.
He called us to understand.
When I say he called us, I mean all of us. Not just people of color. Not just those who have been oppressed. All of us.
He called us to heal.
He called us to seek reconciliation and redemption, not revenge.
He called us to educate and elevate and embrace one another.
As I watched the story on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial unfold this weekend, a quote kept floating through my head that I would like to share with you. It’s not from Dr. King, it’s from “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
“You’ll never improve a man by repelling him, especially a boy.”