Next Tuesday, January 15th, appears to be like any other day. It is still towards the beginning of the week (Tuesday) with so many more minutes, hours, days, and moments until the respite of the weekend comes rolling around.
With the novelty of the new year wearing off and people getting into their customary routines, along with the delicate balance of the rigors of an arduous day given responsibilities at work, with family, and with themselves, far too many may end up letting the day pass you by before realizing the importance and merit of the day. And too many only understand it from a season one episode of a cartoon that first appeared in the newspapers and later on Adult Swim, which gives us a reminder of how far some of us have drifted, and the necessary "kicker" needed to get ourselves together.
On January 15, 1929, a young man is born in Atlanta. Ok, there are a number of people who are born on this day. But one in particular who made his residence while growing up at the address of 450 Auburn Avenue Northeast. The very same person who is influenced by his father and grandfather, both strong-willed members of the clergy, but living testimonies of what stewardship and service is truly about, even when others may have had very divergent views, if any at all.
It is well documented of his academic prowess in entering Morehouse College at the age of 15, completing his PhD at Boston University, becoming a member of what is still considered as the first and foremost fraternal organization for African-American men, and his ministry in his home-bases of Atlanta and Montgomery. His work which takes him far and wide including residencies in Chicago, a March in Washington, a Nobel Peace Prize, and regular conversations with Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln.
What is sometimes forgotten are the sacrifices so willingly accepted in light of the fact that at times, it likely took a strain and toil on his family. Some sacrifices for the greater good resulted in being stabbed at a book signing, being condemned by his fellow black and white clergymen (to which his eloquent response identified the hypocrisy of said community), ostracised by the very same presidency (Johnson) for his views on the Vietnam War, identifying the mis-labelling of the term black that most would normally identify with his counterpart Malcolm X, as well as the high level target of the FBI (otherwise known as Code Name Zorro), and his climatic coming to peace with his life's work on April 3, 1968 with his epic "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address, only to come to his conclusion another 24 hours later on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN at 6:01pm CST.
Yes, there are streets renamed for this 5' 7" man who also had a solid pool game, along with the center that bears his name, the centers and museums named given his influence (in Birmingham and Memphis), as well as the only monument not named after a US president. The national holiday, celebrations, and sermons also serve well in memorializing the man and his mission to serve.
And then what of the other days of the year?
And what of those who follow such examples of stewardship?
And what of the larger messages regarding equal rights, economic opportunities, individual accountability, access to education, and others which are resounding areas of concern in the immediate and surrounding communities in which we live and work in?
As the celebrations commence, why not considering listening to and heeding the call to serve? Perhaps the sustained and systematic effort to educate, enlighten, empower, and improve collective accountability could be a target for the greater service and investment that is required in order to realize the desired level of achievement needed and necessary to effectuate changes for the betterment of the whole instead of the benefit of the few. Perhaps as the saying goes, if more are willing to put their pride and ego in a can and put it on the shelf, then stronger, systematic, and sustained support of those who are committed to building up individuals and communities can be done instead of the backdoor manner that is sometimes taken in tearing them down.
No one, not even this writer, can achieve perfection. However, we can achieve improvement that can be marked and measured better than what we have done. And if anything, it doesn't mean you have to be the biggest, tallest, or most eloquent, but the most committed. As the adages go, it's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog.
In the end, as is noted in circles of the clergy, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. In other words, all of us have to be invested in some way, shape, or form, so take advantage of the many and multiple opportunities that are present, both near and far, in order to be a part of the process and part of the greater solution instead of part of the problem of complacency or indifference.
One man made a difference. It's time for more...