At CityLink, we are fortunate to have a team of AmeriCorps VISTAs who propel our work and our mission. We asked that team of millennials to reflect on mlk-speech-1963, and share their reflections on his words in our modern age:
Federal holidays are often a welcome respite from day-to-day operations in offices, schools and organizations. However,the third Monday in January, is not simply a day off, but a time to reflect on the many teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. We live in a broken world. Amidst a time of great change, racial divide and overall social injustice, it is a time for us to be honest with ourselves and to look at where we have been, where we are now, and examine ways in which we can grow.
Over the past few years we have been challenged by events (locally, nationally and internationally) that have evoked anger, intolerance, and fear. The riots and trials in Ferguson, MO, the attacks in Nice, France, a divisive election and other happenings have made us individually retreat into our own realm of safety and comfort.
We can refuse to challenge our own worldview. We can refuse to listen to the needs of our neighbors. Or, we can choose to realize that the problems of “others” are our problems as well. Dr. King knew this, taught this and preached this crazy notion that our lives are inevitably entwined:
“…all life is interrelated… Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Because our lives are connected we cannot sit idly by and accept the injustices we see every day. We must fight to step out of ourselves, confronting our own ignorance and the issues of our world. When we are fighting for justice for our neighbor, we are fighting for justice for ourselves. This is not a fight of hatred and violence but a call to unselfishly love one another. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. charges us to love others with an agape love:
“Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return…When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition.”
Just as this love propelled the actions of MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement, it can inspire and direct change in the challenges we are facing and will continue to face together as a community and as nation. During this season of tension and conflict, we challenge you to not be passive. Lift your voice, use your gifts, question yourself and take an active role in loving your neighbors.
There is much work to be done, and while the road ahead may be long, arduous at times and riddled with struggle, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never loose infinite hope” in a reconciled world where poverty, pain, violence and injustice ceases to exist.