"In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
I read again King's "I Have a Dream" and sought to be moved by the words in a fresh way rather than just focusing on the parts that have become a part of my oral history with its singsong cadence and rising vitality. I wanted to see, not just hear, what he had to say that day. Just as with any good writing, returning to the text regularly will offer you new insights based on where you are in your own journey. This MLK Day proved no exception.
How many times, I wondered, as the quote above stung me, have I been so driven by my own sense of righteousness that I gulped greedily from the cup of bitterness. Sarcasm and snide remarks, dismissal of another's thoughts merely because of the "side" they represented was not my own -- these have more frequently than I care to admit, been my weapons of choice. No matter the injustice that I want righted and how important or critical I think immediate attention should be paid, my cause is not helped when the fury of my emotion drowns out my point.
MLK knew that. To read his text is to be educated. To hear his words spoken that day is to be lifted up, but not to the place of an "eye for an eye". Instead, he shouts to us a lullaby, soothing our anxious spirits with the comfort of knowing that we are not alone, painting a picture that is impossible to see without standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us but with a bit of effort, is visible.
The day is coming when I once again will feel passionate about a cause to the point of indignation, when my blood runs hot with the desire to shut "them up", shout "them" down, stop "their" stupidity. When that day comes, I pray I will I have the soul force to satisfy my thirst with the cup of overflowing grace so frequently offered to me.