Every year I'm a little disappointed in myself for not marking the passage of Martin Luther King Day in a more meaningful way. This year was no different, outwardly, although inwardly my thoughts have been lingering on the qualities of service, faith and courage that MLK personified. I'm resolved to do better next year, but in the meantime I promised myself I would at least write this blog post, even if it's a few days late.
Last week I was helping in Marley's class when I read something that struck me with such force I had to write it down. The teacher had just finished explaining to the kids that if not for Martin Luther King, Jr., their little class of white, brown and most shades in between might not have been able to exist. My eyes were wandering around the room and landed on a poster with frayed edges hanging next to the black board. It said:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
I've long felt that MLK was a prophet, and to me, these words feel like scripture. I've been thinking about them, and praying for them to sink into my heart. I think it's amazing that I, in all my privilege, and a world away in experience, can feel such resonance in his words, and feel like they apply so personally to my life.
I'm not violent in my actions, but I can be violent with my words and thoughts. And it never works, it just never does. Light and love are the only things that work, whether your battle is with a toddler or a tyrant. Not that I would ever compare my struggles to the struggles of those who fought for civil rights. But the best way I know to honor their memory is to use the lessons they taught us, to become a more loving person, and to raising loving people.
I also thought this was fascinating, and, again, held such relevance to my life.
P.S.- When we lived in Atlanta we tried several times to tour the house on Auburn Avenue where MLK was born, but it was always sold out. It's on my list of things to do before I die.