I still remember when I first learned of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was in the 2nd grade. His story stuck in my head, for a number of reasons, but being non-violent was the most impactful of all of them. It surprised me he had taken the non-violent route and I wondered how he kept his cool through so much brutality.
Even at that age I knew violence would only bring more violence, and had been taught to love my enemy at church. However, Dr. King was the first individual (outside of folks in the bible) I had read about that actually practiced this. His commitment to non-violence was the first radical idea that drew me to him.
From there, he became my first virtual mentor.
I met him daily at the library where I read books upon books about his life. In that time, I also became aware of other people that joined Dr. King in the civil rights movement. I read about their lives as well. It amazed me that (1) if you lived your life in a positive way, (2) stood up for what you believed, and (3) never gave up, you could be remembered forever.
Dr. King died almost 20 years before I was born, but his life had a massive impact on mine. From his story I learned many lessons, but here are a few of the highlights:
I learned to be wary of conventional wisdom and to question the “norm” at all times. His thoughts were beyond his time, and in many cases, have proven to beyond our time as well. Nonetheless, he preached them ceaselessly.
He taught me that ultimately, as my faith also taught, that love conquers all. He did not fight with traditional weapons. He fought in the minds of people, he went to war with conscience.
Little People Matter
He showed me that even though you may not have big numbers behind you, you still matter. He fought for people who were less fortunate than him. He experienced a lot of success in his day, went a lot of places, met with powerful people, but he stood up for the little guy.
He spoke very highly of humanity and pressed people to see themselves in a new light. He challenged them to think on a higher plain. He pressed them toward greatness and spoke of what that vision could look like for everyone.
In his words you could hear the brutal truth of reality, but you also heard his hope. He was a realist in practice, but remained true to his dream. That hope, in turn, inspired me to dream.
And that dream was to live my life in a way where someone would remember what I stood for.
What will be your legacy? What did Dr. King teach you?