A few years ago I insisted that we observe MLK Day at our church. The reasons were not as simple as giving another day off to our staff or attempting to be culturally adroit. Actually, it goes much deeper than that.
We have one African American on our staff and only a score of African Americans who belong and attend our church, but that is enough. Who we are is not determined by a majority or minority but by every individual who joins others to collectively become a congregation. Observing MLK Day is a way of saying you are important to us and what is important to you is important to us no matter how we might understand it. Dr. King’s life and impact is different for everyone. His impact on my African American brothers and sisters is enough for me to stop and share the day with them.
Martin Luther King
I was thirteen years old when Dr. King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. I watched him on television and knew that Americans would never be the same. The debates, marches, violence and legislation that followed changed us forever. His legacy seems greater than his life in many ways. Alive he was a great man. In legacy, he is a movement which continues to do its work. I do not understand all of it and I know I do not appreciate what it means to many which is another reason to observe this day. It is a way to recognize that some people represent more than we can fathom. Dr. King was that kind of person.
A Simple Act
I know that like me, most of my staff and people may not give this day the significance that some will. I do not pretend to understand or feel the full weight of Dr. King’s life and legacy. I do not set aside my own cultural heritage in an effort to be “accepted” or “culturally correct”. I have no time for that. I won’t be at any political speeches, parades, or school programs. I will simply take time Monday to think about him and what his impact is. Observing this day is a simple act of respect for a great person and for many of my friends who became friends through the life and legacy of a man who simply did what he could to make things right.