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.
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.
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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