I don’t know what to write today. I don’t really have anything to write about, but it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I thought I should try. On the other hand, it would be inappropriate for me to try to write something poignant. The best words I’ve written, in terms of language and evoking feeling, have just happened. I may have thought about what to say or what scene to set, but when the words came out they just flowed.
Which brings me back to MLK. You can’t manufacture emotion. If a story doesn’t connect with a reader, no amount of editing or flowery language will correct that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make others feel a certain way. Once you have a story that resonates, once you know what to say, the way you deliver it can change lives. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did. Except he wasn’t dabbling in storytelling. He was staring reality in the face and accepted the challenge of becoming the face of a new reality. A reality that was inclusive to all. A reality that honored all people, regardless of their differences. A reality where my white mother and black father could openly love each other without being harassed. MLK, and so many others, saw what the citizens of our nation needed, even when so many were flagrantly unwilling to accept it. A better reality was possible. He was tasked with writing it down and sharing it aloud. The civil rights movement was a story that needed an author. He became that author.
The Montgomery bus boycott, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the Poor People’s Campaign are just a few chapters from the story he helped start. A story that is far from complete. As we live among one another, with all our differences and beliefs, let us continue searching within ourselves and our society for the next chapters of this story.
In an interview with Writer’s Digest in 1975, Maya Angelou said, “If we started looking at each other and our differences, our family background and personal history, we could find so many differences. But those are tangential, those are peripheral. There are really no differences. We are, first, human beings. And so when you weep, I understand it clearly. When you laugh, I understand it clearly. When you love, you don’t have to translate it to me. These are the important things.”
When Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream,” he wasn’t the only one. We all have dreams. As we chase them individually, let’s remember to help others achieve theirs. Sometimes a word of encouragement is the difference between quitting and giving it one more shot. Everything that has happened in the world is connected. The more dreams we accomplish, the more the next generation of dreams become possible.