Photo: Pothos in the southern sun. Languishing in a precious pot painted by my son.
It’s the Monday before The Friday, and I have been spending all day thinking about what to write. This Monday, a day to celebrate the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (read: put quotes of him up as a Facebook status to feel good about yourself), is little more than a random day off in January for most people. Some people march, others serve, most just sleep in and catch up on stuff just like every other three-day weekend on the calendar. But on this particular MLK Day, the Monday before The Friday, this Monday after a Civil Rights leader was lambasted by a man freely elected to be the new leader of the free world, MLK Day feels… spirited. This MLK Day has something a little more to say. If you aren’t paying attention, though, you’ll miss the message.
I spent this day reminding myself that I refused to bring fear and anger into this year. Fear and anger are tools of the enemy to keep me confused and unaware. I will not bring them with me. My meditations and attempts to calm down made me wonder what Dr. King and Rep. Lewis and Mrs. Parks and the many named and unnamed brave souls of the Civil Rights era brought with them for every march, every sit-in, every moment of doubt, every year after year of the long fight. What did they bring, and thus, what should we bring to the here and now?
They brought their bodies. They showed up for the moments when they were called. They marched, they walked, they sat, they stood, they went to school, they went to court. They were there, present and undeniable. They put their bodies in places where they knew they would be harmed or killed. Many of them were, in lonely places far away from loved ones. Some of them, to this day, still wait for righteous justice. What of us, then? Where can our bodies be right now? Our bodies can be at the marches this weekend, but may we continue to march and walk in the months ahead. May our bodies stand between hateful forces and places of prayer so that all may have sanctuaries. May our bodies stand between hateful forces and places where our immigrant neighbors work and live so that all may have dignity and safe places to be. May our bodies be at town halls and local meetings, state legislatures and state court houses so that our dissent may be heard. May we be present and undeniable today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
They brought their voices. We know their chants and spiritual songs from the grainy films in documentaries of old, but let us not forget their damning silence, the grace of their lowered, measured tones. They brought the rhythm and melody of pain and power through speech, chant and song. What can our voices do now? Our voices can scream until they are horse at the gatherings to come, but they can also be measured at the microphone at town hall meetings when our federal representatives come home to face their constituents. They can raise up in song over the chants of hate. They can be shaming in their silence at intimate gatherings where yelling only provokes and inflames. May our voices be clear and strong, may they lift high and carry far.
They brought their faith. While we pause in recognition of a single man of faith today, let us not forget that his message was repeated week after week in churches all across the country in communities big and small. Furthermore, let us not forget that his messages of love, equality, bravery, compassion and action were spoken from the pulpit long before he stepped into it. His contemporaries of other faiths and factions were also carrying the message of equality to people of all walks of life. Yet still, faith is a connection and a bond, a shared language for many, and a strengthening shield for others. What of us, then, in this modern era when “faith” and the faithful have been usurped by exclusive and hateful messages? Let us first be strengthened by our personal well-springs of faith and spirit, and then sincerely extend that to others with compassion and understanding. May our faith be first in humanity and our neighbors, a common thread for reaching out and doing good. May our faith be a pool of strength that we can use as we need to be brave and do the work needed to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
They brought their talents. We remember the man who was at the forefront, who history chose to be the face of it all, but let us not forget the many in the background who made the rest of the movement possible. The people who organized, the people who fed, the people who made signs, the people who provided safe places to think, to speak, to shower, to sleep. There were many hands and many hearts, each contributing, each important. May we each bring our talents to the days to come, giving credence and kudos to those who may not step out to give speeches, but who may step in to provide meals. May we, in ways big and small, do what must we done: first to resist, next to challenge, then to elevate and change. May we each remember that our small pieces make a larger, powerful whole.
They brought their bravery. None of what I’ve described above could happen without bravery. To stand, to speak, to work, to give, to act. Every action by those who came before was an action that had a consequence, potential and actual. We must always be grateful for the bravery. We must emulate it however and whenever we can. May we ever be brave, every day, until the battles are won.
Dear Reader, do not bring your fear, do not bring your anger, do not bring your despair. These are the short days and there is work to be done. We need you. Now is when we need you. We need you at your best, we need you at your brightest and we need you at your bravest. Bring it all with you, this week and in the weeks to come: bring your body, bring your voice, bring your faith, bring your talents and please, above all, bring your bravery. Bring them all with you. I’ll bring mine, too.
Until Wednesday, stay warm, be brave, and take care.