Today we honor the life, the actions, and the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose commitment to ending racial inequality and championing civil rights is noted throughout the world. Dr. King spoke eloquently of working together and of all people living together in peace. He lived – and died – speaking out against hatred and violence.
There are many documented quotes by Dr. King – many that I find inspiring. As I read through a long list of them as motivation for this post, I kept coming back to this one:
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” – MLK, Jr.
What truth! If we each are honest, we’ve all experienced it. I’ll go first. There have been many times over the last half-century that I have been guilty of pre-judging another person based on a reaction, a poor first impression, a comment, or one negative behavior. It set my guard on “high” and it was easy to dismiss that person without a second thought. Most of those judgments occurred during the earlier part of my life when my world was extremely small – a time when I knew very little about anyone outside of my immediate influences or who was very different from me in any way. It isn’t something I am proud to admit, but I am proud to tell you that in the majority of those cases, I was wrong. When given the chance to sit together, talk, and share experiences, it was often amazing as to how much much our lives overlapped and connected. I share that as a testament to broadening your surroundings, creating opportunities and experiences to learn about others from all walks of life, and education. It matters. Even in attempts to be more conscious and aware, I am reminded of just how far I have to go.
As Dr. King stated, what often separates us from getting along is simply not taking the time to figure how we are the same. Instead, we focus on all the ways we think we are different – which is usually a result of unsubstantiated fear. How many times are we guilty of dismissing the opportunity to know someone based on assumptions? Opinions can often be formed and sealed without speaking a word. Our minds can lock and set on the judgment of another based on an impression, an unproven fact, or miscommunication. Sometimes one negative experience with another results in equating all those related to them as the same. That is simply unfair and wrong. Fear, I have decided, is the true enemy. Fear seeks to control. Fear is a liar. It deceives us of so many worthwhile experiences, steals our dreams and causes division. Dr. King also said we have the power to defeat fear:
“Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”
Please don’t mistake my message of, “we are more alike than different” as a blanket solution to the social injustices that we face as a nation daily. This post is not intended to smooth over the importance of addressing them head-on. I won’t overlook the fact that there is much work left to be done. Nearly fifty-two years later, Dr. King would find the battle for civil rights and equality is still going strong. Presently, racism is as emboldened as ever. Discrimination has now spread to those who worship differently and love differently. Women continue to march for their voices to be heard. We must be intentional in the ways we come together as a nation, rather than divide ourselves from each other. While it is not my intention to invoke a political post here today, I will take full advantage of the opportunity to bring awareness to those things that matter when given the opportunity. Whether large or small, I believe when we are given a voice and a venue to speak to justice we must be responsible to do so each time.
When I began this site, the purpose was two-fold. First, I wanted to create a space to write. Second, I wanted to write to share and connect with others. As stated on my site’s page, I do believe we are more alike than different. Sharing stories and experiences is a way to bring us together – a way to connect and find the ways our lives overlap. To honor the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I encourage you to make an intentional effort to connect with someone you see different from yourself. It may be a difference in race, faith, or sexual orientation. Perhaps you appear to have differing political views or economic status. Listen to their story. Discover your connections. You may be surprised by the many ways you are alike than different. Find ways to work together to make a difference “for good”.
Dr. King gave us the challenge to care for one another, stand up for each other, to indeed be our brother’s keeper. Will we accept that challenge? I want to do and be better. I feel we all can. Let’s find the courage to connect.