As a Nation, today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. As I drank my morning coffee, my mind drifted back to the Sixties when I had just turned 20 and watched this great man speak of a time when there would be equality for all peoples, no matter their race, religion, or culture. I was mesmerized by his demeanor, his words, his passion. Many times I wished I had had the opportunity to actually be present during one of his speeches. Everything he said rang true with me, From a young age it was very important to me for everyone to get along, share ideas, and work together without discord or intolerance. I lived in a town where blacks and whites owned homes in the same neighborhood, went to school together, where fathers worked side-by-side in the mill, and mothers shopped in the same grocery stores. When I went away to high school, Mary Alice Bates became my good friend who just happened to be black.
I also remember the marches led by Martin Luther King with thousands of both blacks and whites in stride behind him, trying to impress upon our country the need for change. Many were sympathetic to the inequality that existed in the US, but many more were determined to keep the blacks down, insisting they weren't deserving of equal rights since they had been born into slavery and therefore were subordinate to the white race. I can still see the ugly riots that ensued where policemen, with raised clubs, beat and handcuffed the marchers usually without cause. My heart broke for those who had to suffer the terrible violence and unjust imprisonment simple because they wanted what all
God's children deserved.
And I definitely recall the terror that coursed through my body the day Martin Luther King was shot and killed. I felt paralyzed and totally confused by the news. Why would anyone do such a horrific thing to a man of peace? That notion kept rolling around in my brain and eventually made me very angry. A wife was now without her husband, children no longer had their father. I suppose I related so strongly to their plight, since my dad died when I was three, leaving my mom a widow, and my brother and I, orphans.
Something I'd never considered before began to take over my thinking this morning. What if only I'd met Martin Luther King when I was in my twenties? Would I have been among his followers, marched with him, and spread his message to both the choir and the disbelievers? Would I have been willing to be beaten and imprisoned for my participation which many thought to be civil disobedience? Would I have continued to fight the fight of inequality even after Martin Luther King was murdered?
Since my only involvement in his cause was through the news media, I will never know exactly what I would have done back then, but I do know that my mission to educate the young about the beauty of diversity was borne out of this great man's beliefs and sacrifice. There is only one item in my personal bucket list, to witness world peace before I leave my earthly journey. And the only way to achieve this lofty goal, is to begin teaching youngsters not to fear difference, but to embrace it. If we all join in striving for peace and harmony among all peoples, I know in my heart, the way Martin Luther King envisioned it, that world peace is indeed possible!