I cannot pretend that my waist size is more important than my words. The shade of lipstick I wear won’t impact the world more than what I do and fail to do. Turning 40, and making another trip around the sun will only count as much as I make it count.
What good will I do in my 40th year? What will I create? Who will I serve?
“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. I decided to give the letter a read today in honor of Martin Luther King Day. The first I read the letter was in a college Critical Writing and Argumentation Class.
My words may never form into prose compelling enough to change the world much. I may not be destined to do great things. I can follow Mother Teresa’s motto and “do small things with great love.”
Much of my time is spent working out, cooking, baking, and looking at style trends – the smaller stuff of life. I do my best to bring love to each of those things. Sometimes I fail.
Today, I am taking a break from frivolity to think about social justice.
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Martin Luther King Jr. said in his I Have a Dream speech. I read that today too.
As I read those words this morning my mind drifted to the weekend. I was walking the track at the gym. I overheard a man I recognized as a police officer from having waited on him in uniform. He said he wasn’t interested in watching NFL games anymore, because the players don’t stand for the flag and they pretend like there aren’t crimes going on…
The man I overheard is nice enough. I remember that he was always polite, reasonable, and tipped well. Most of the police officers, paramedics, fire fighters, mechanics and construction workers I have waited on in the past have been kind. Maybe their lines of work give them a certain perspective.
My guess is that the man I overheard is the sort of person who thinks Martin Luther King Jr. was a good man who did admirable things. From what little I know of him, it’s hard to imagine him hating a person for their race or religion. There are many people I know who have similar views, backgrounds, and goodness.
There does, however, seem to be a failure on their part to connect the dots:
Martin Luther King Jr. was a good man. It’s unfortunate that he was killed. NFL Players engaging in nonviolent protest, risking their careers and incomes, because the African American man continues to be the “victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality” are bad ingrates who have sullied the game.
I’m no math genius, but something doesn’t seem to equate…
In Letter from Birmingham Jail. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
I can’t help but think that I have been one of the silent people our generation will have to repent for, even though he was speaking of a generation that precedes mine. Too often my goal is to just get along with people, to try to see it from their side. In this past year, that has become a challenge.
Someone recently said to me that “Rochester is getting more and more like Chicago.” Her tone was disparaging. She was talking about Rochester, Minnesota; the city I live in. It was a phrase I heard often enough in the mid-90s. I responded that Rochester has always had its problems and then switched subjects.
That conversation nags at my mind. I should ask her someday if she’s aware of the connotation of those words. The undercurrent to that phrase is: Rochester has become more diverse and some people are uncomfortable with that.
It’s time for me to respond with more than an eye roll and a sigh to the words I too often hear and overhear. I must stop being one, “who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
Instead, I should harness that tension like a tightrope walker. Tension may not be comfortable, but it is necessary to progress from where I am to where I aspire to be.
Have you taken a moment to reflect on social justice today?