Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr.: Defining A Life

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”...Martin Luther King Jr.

I was just a little kid growing up in the Northeast before the civil rights movement,  and yes there were racial lines and racial injustices...there still are.  But aside from interracial marriage which always seemed to have people take notice, whites and blacks living side by side did not cause a stir...for the most part.  I grew up across the street from four homes which had been owned by black families as far back as anyone could remember.  Us kids played ball together, told family secrets, but didn't really hang out or go to the movies together.  That was our normal.  It wasn't until I got to high school and someone said I lived on the black side of town that I even took notice that maybe it wasn't.  Apparently, my street was the only one in town where that many black homes could be found on one block.

My family was big on summer vacations, every year from the time I was around 7 or 8, the four of us got into our little red Corvair with no air conditioning and drove to Florida.  It was never a direct route.  We would get to the beach eventually, but first we would see some other equally great stuff.  From the horse farms in Kentucky (one of my personal faves) to Busch Stadium in St. Louis (that was for my dad) to New Orleans...the trips were filled with fun, swimming (had to have a motel with a pool) and some educational activities.  My brother and I loved it.  Those memories are still some of the best in my life.

But I remember the more ominous things as well.

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” ...MLK Jr.

I remember the signs on some of the restaurants in the deep south; "Whites Only".  Even as a child, it was something I could not comprehend.  I remember my mother calling a motel in Florida where we were to stay, to ask if was safe to come. We had heard about riots, and acid being poured into another motel swimming pool.  I remember feeling afraid as we passed the motel where it had occurred.  I tell this story to as many younger people as I can, just so they can understand that these things happened in my lifetime.  It really hasn't been so very long.

Never take for granted the rights that have been given to you. Others before you paid with their sweat and blood.  Others, including Martin Luther King Jr. have defined their lives by what they have that others may live better.  How will you define yours?

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