For the past 10+ years my office has been a supporter of our local YMCA in Downtown Los Angeles, and every year we sponsor the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Brotherhood breakfast. I have been asked to attend this event no less than 6 times and each year I curiously look at my fellow attendees invited to the breakfast. The majority us are black at the table, yet we represent less than 10% of the ethnic makeup of our office. Every year there’s a keynote, awards and a speech by a gifted talented youth that restores our faith in the generations that follow ours. And we always sing “We Shall Overcome”. It is an inspiring event, however with each year I attend I wonder why the other 250+ of my colleagues in the office don’t attend this breakfast. Surely everyone would be inspired by this event?
And with each passing year when some of us choose to observe MLK Day I am surprised by how many do not recognize the day at all. Many offices are open today, some people chose to stay home and others go out of their way to proclaim that it is “business as usual”. My corporation sends a message to all employees urging us to make today a “Day of Service”; even that phrase smacks as an admonition carrying a didactic tone as if to say, “yes, we will recognize this day because we are legally mandated to do so, but we will still tell you what to do”. With all of this I look at the duality of this country’s progress and the stark realities of today reminding me that we have so much further to go.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every year I have mixed emotions about today, but I have come to understand this. If we do not take the time to challenge ourselves, confront ourselves, ask important questions, learn and grow, we are failing to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive.
So on this day, I will not tell you what to do, but at the risk of being didactic I would like to challenge you. I encourage you to take time to reflect on what this day means to you. This may mean that you challenge yourself and your beliefs. What can you do to make an impact on yourself and your community? What can you learn today? How will you act on that knowledge? Thank an elder for their sacrifice. Encourage a child to think differently or do something bold. Find someone who does not look like you or shares your beliefs and ask them a question about theirs. Listen to their answer. Know that they do not speak for all, just for themselves. Understand that you can make an impact, but it takes courage to emerge from your cone of silence and comfort. I am inspired by the selfless acts of people who courageously demonstrate these behaviors every day in both big and small ways. Today, feel empowered to be of service to yourself through knowledge and enlightenment; then share your light with others.