Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr Week 2016

As the Martin Luther King Jr. 2016 Celebration Week draws near, I remember our visit to Washington D. C. last August. It was hot. I got caught somehow in a revolving door, bumped into the glass wall and got a goose egg on my forehead. We got lost briefly. We saw so much on the National Mall. The highlight was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

MLK in D.C. 2015
MLK Memorial Washington D.C. 2015

It’s massive and I looked and felt small standing in front of it. The view of the Reflecting Pool from the Lincoln Memorial where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech was spectacular.

Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument
Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument

It was an inspiring visit, maybe just a little intimidating. During the MLK Celebration Week I usually ponder the vision and accomplishments of King and others. He must have had an ordinary life at least in some ways, though it’s difficult to imagine when. I get a sense of perspective about my own relatively minor daily challenges.

I was only 8 years old at the time of King’s speech in Washington. I barely knew I was alive and it was only many years later when I finally came to appreciate the magnitude of his contribution and his sacrifice. So in January I always wonder what I’m doing to support a cause bigger and more important than myself.

I don’t do great deeds or give great speeches. I always think that King lived in an extraordinary time and did courageous things. And I always think I live in a different time in which I must do everyday things. I don’t heal the sick. But I bear witness to their suffering and do what I can to comfort them. I don’t make grand discoveries. But I can find an old trick which just might work. I’m not a brilliant educator. But I am a very proud teacher because I have known students who have themselves become the everyday teachers I respect. I am neither researcher nor statesman. I’m more like a rodeo clown…but another name for a rodeo clown is “bullfighter,” and humor can be a powerful everyday tool.

Every year I feel disappointed that I have still not done any brilliant or world-changing things. And every January I again eventually decide that doing the everyday things are just as important.

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