In the midst of a racially charged time in our society, we pause today to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King and his vision of peace, love, justice and fellowship.
Dr. King’s dream was celebrated tonight in Lee’s Summit, in Kansas City and throughout the United States via these types of events, speeches, vigils and remembrances.
I got a glimpse of King’s dream while traveling to Memphis last summer. During my annual guys’ trip, I finally detoured off Beale Street and found the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. While touring, reading, listening and visualizing all that King had preached regarding civil rights and civil disobedience, I was struck by one thing in particular – his age. King was just 39 when he was gunned down by coward James Earl Ray. At 40, I was walking through and seeing this tremendous affect he had on our country and culture in such a short amount of time.
And while race relations are never seemingly at an even keel, since that trip to Memphis, it has gotten exponentially worse.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old New York man, died July 17, 2014 after officer Daniel Pantaleo performed what some consider an illegal choke hold. Why Pantaleo took such drastic measures against Garner is beyond me. Still, it happened. And a flurry of race-related riots followed after Pantaleo wasn’t charged in his death.
On Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Missouri – an event that prompted me to head to the St. Louis suburb and find some sort of humanity among a racially-fueled and angry community.
Since that Grand Jury released its findings, we know now what transpired between officer Darren Wilson and Brown on that fateful day. That situation and the fate of Eric Garner are starkly different. We know that now.
But the results are the same. Race is in the headlines, used in the news as a flash point of controversy and talking points and, months later when we celebrate the work of Dr. King, relived again as we discuss where we have been and where we are heading as a country still dealing with racial issues.
On this day, though, I thought more about my brother-in-law, Tony, who passed away a year ago this month.
Tony was a proud black man. A preacher. A helper. A wonderful husband to my sister, a friend, brother and mentor to many.
Tony and I rarely had the “big” racial discussion. We didn’t break down Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” or “I Have a Dream” speeches.
Mostly, Tony talked about love. Loving your neighbor. Love for your family. Loving God. Showing love, sharing love, offering love. Over the years, I tried to better embrace and understand that message. I know that Tony and my sister Ann practiced that message of love. And saw it given back a thousand times over during Tony’s service.
King’s messages during his life resonate well after his death. He was willing to say the hard things about race that we sometimes don’t want to talk about.
I believe we have many hard conversations still ahead.
But if we have them with a dose of patience, reverence and, of course, love, I think we could actually get somewhere.