“I’m no different than anyone else. I want to live long and be happy, but I’ll not be focusing on what I want today … the sun is shining, and I’m about to stand in its warmth alongside a lot of freedom-loving people who worked hard to get us here. I may not be here for all the sunny days to come, but as long as there’s light ahead for them, it’s worth it to me.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s willingness to put his life on the line for something he believed in would have won him a place in my Courageous Living Hall of Fame. But it was Dr. King’s exemplary expressions of tenacity, faith, compassion, vision, and moral leadership that distinguish him as one of the great human beings of our time. Or any time, for that matter.
While we take a day to honor his life and enduring spirit, his timeless message of equality, nonviolence, and social justice is desperately needed in our great nation as we teeter on fear, ignorance, and complacency. And as we rise up to resist the shadow side of our culture, which, as we have seen, is fraught with age-old inequalities, fears and prejudices, Dr. King’s call to social responsibility is more relevant than ever.
Courageous Living is an ethic for transforming personal growth and awareness into a joyful and meaningful life—complete with loving, caring relationships. But more than anything, it is a call to social responsibility. We must rededicate ourselves to cultivating the values we cherish, standing up to the people and things that present a clear and present danger to the common good and believing in a better future.
Opening my heart and mind to channel what Dr. King might have said to all of us in 2018, I came up with the following inspirations:
- We’re all different. And our greatest challenge is to discover that it’s okay. Our diversity—whether represented by differences in skin color, gender, language, religion, political party, government, socio-economic status, or communication style—is a very small part of us. What unites us is that we’re all inhabitants of Earth, human beings, and children of God who want our lives to mean something. Even infatuated lovers bathing in the delight of their similarities will eventually discover differences. All of us are being challenged to find the common ground on which the resources necessary to feed and shelter our children and peace can prevail.
- We are all being called to a higher ground on which equal rights, social justice, compassion, and moral integrity can prevail over fear, greed, hatred, corruption, violence, and prejudice. Each of us must do a “character check” and ask ourselves, “What will I put on the line to create a better, safer, and more just future?
- Change is a process. We must seek and create social change through advocacy, leadership, peaceful protests, and “Rosa Parks–type” acts of resistance. We must also listen, wherever and whenever possible, to the fears and wounds of others we have called our enemies and opponents. Models of truth and reconciliation have taught us the power of compassion, humility, admitting mistakes/ wrongdoings, and apologizing. Rebuilding trust is the path to reducing tensions, restoring peace, earning second chances, and working together for the common good.
- Let’s all be curious to learn. There is a world of possibility and goodness that opens up to us when we discover the heart and soul of another person, culture, nationality, faith, perspective, and way of doing things. We are all immigrants!
- Let’s build newfound courage, hope, respect, understanding, gratitude, and confidence that we have it in us to leave the world a better, safer place.
History is calling for us to, once again, turn lemons into lemonade. We can use the opportunity of these times (that is, “outing” racism, sexism, inequality, discrimination, hatred, ignorance, despair, and corruption) to awaken ourselves and the world from complacency, fight for what we believe in, and dare to “have a dream” as grand as that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.