It is the day after the holiday established in honor of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. Yesterday was filled with tributes and reflections that paid homage to this iconic American leader and paused to give attention to the causes of equality that characterized the days he walked this earth. Remembering the battle to establish a holiday in his honor, it is a blessing to see so many give attention to his writings, actions and particularly his dream. Nevertheless, I intentionally chose not to write anything on that momentous occasion. Why not? My heart is not so much inspired by the dream as much as my soul is now stirred by a sanctified vision of engaging the current reality. It is my conviction that what we do now that matters more than what he dreamed then.
For me, Dr. King laid a foundation upon which those of us who follow should build. He dreamed not for us to dream, but rather for us to work in the context of the realities we face daily towards the better day of which he dreamed. At this stage of my soul is deadened towards utopian dreams of equality while my spirit is quickened by the conviction that we must stop dreaming and take righteous action towards establishing a more loving and harmonious society.
What do I mean by “take action?” Let me establish first what I do not mean. I do not mean marching, sitting, chanting or protesting. Those means of communicating have their place, and in the United States, those means of communication are totally within our rights. Nevertheless, I now find that those means are of little effect for more than letting people know one is displeased with a situation and while they are cathartic for those who employ them, they do not generally bring about the change people are seeking to achieve.
I am calling people of good will to do something tangible to bring about change in the places in which they live within the spheres of influence they actually possess. I am asking people to go beyond posting an opinion on social media but instead to engage in some new behaviors and to take some grass roots level risks. If you have “a friend” of a different background, don’t stop at one. If you don’t like someone’s behavior towards people of your background, don’t just post a meme, reach out to someone who shares that contrary opinion and ask questions. That is the outrageous and courageous step Darryl Davis took when he began to intentionally reach out to ask a simple question of white supremacists he sought out. His question? “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” Dangerous approach? Gutsy for sure! But his quest for an answer actually led to the kind of reflection that caused several individuals he encountered to renounce hateful life ways and to turn in the objects of their hateful obsession and turn towards a new way of seeing life and others! That’s the kind of awakening that grass roots, trench level action can bring about.
Let me be clear. I am not naïve. My literal eschatological view of the world doesn’t see things getting better without some seismic, catastrophic occurrences first taking place. The world is trending towards catastrophe, and the division I see within the nation I call home does not currently give me much reason to believe we will see “a better day” without much striving and strife. Nevertheless, the Lord I serve warned that “In this world, [we] will have tribulation. But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world!” The Scriptures in which I believe call for those who follow Jesus to be overcomers as well, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That is why I intend to work for the rest of my life as my mind and body allow me, fully awakened, no longer dreaming, but pressing on! I will endure the ups and downs of life, stirred in my soul by a sanctified vision that moves beyond marching and protesting, but instead, moves me to love my neighbor and my enemy in tangible ways that others can see, replicate and thus give glory to God. “Awake my soul and rise!” the time for slumber and dreaming has ended!