On Monday, January 15, No Place For Hate – Falmouth will host its annual breakfast commemorating the birth, and the legacy, of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We will, at that time, honor Scoba Rhodes with the Civic Leadership Award for his decades of committed service to our community in pursuit of social justice.
By way of preparing myself for Dr. King’s birthday but, more so, to help myself find messages of consolation and inspiration as I enter a new year that promises to be every bit as challenging as the one now past, I turned to words of Dr. King:
I found these statements, drawn from the collection Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches, to be necessary reminders as I contemplate the work with which I must engage in 2018:
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I am confident that Dr. King knew that Talmudic dictum that teaches: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you permitted to ignore it.” He understood, and stated so poignantly when he declared in a sermon he offered on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, that some tasks require unflagging effort, sometimes across generations:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
It is pointless to ask, “Where are the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jrs. when we really need them?!” The truth is that each of us who cares passionately about distortions of justice in our nation and in our world–who are deeply pained by racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, by deepening poverty, by homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia and by every other manifestation of social injustice–each of us must strive to be Dr. King.
I have never been a believer in pronouncing resolutions for the secular new year. But, inspired by the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I resolve to manifest even greater resolve in 2018 to help bring our world incrementally closer to the one of which Dr. King dreamed and for which he lived and died.