We celebrate the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once a year, but in thinking about who Dr. King was and his accomplishments, I recognize that his traits are some of the same traits we all have. Therefore, we can try to apply them daily.
We understand what the contributions of dr. King and so many others like Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and Congressman John Lewis mean to where we are today. I often think of Dr. king saying "I may not get there with you but we as a people will make it to the promise land." He knew his sacrifices would make a difference in our society. He also knew he wouldn't be here to see the fruits of his and so many others labor.
What kind of character one must have to know they will not directly benefit from the work they're doing--yet do it with passion and dedication. That always gave me just a slight idea as to who Dr. King was. Every day fighting every day lobbying...to make it better for us decades later. Many people quote Dr. King's "I have a dream speech" --which I love. But my favorite quote from Dr. King is as follows.
"It doesn't matter how long you live but how well you do it" very poignant for a man shot down before his 40th birthday--who is now celebrated with a national holiday and a monument in the nation's capital that host hundreds of thousands each year. A man who changed the way we see not only ourselves but our future. We should all strive to be better--because of the way he made for us. So, I asked myself what traits did dr. King have that we all have, that we can all use to make a difference? I have identified 5 traits, and I have called them "The King Things"
1.) Perseverance is defined as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Dr. King persevered through personal attacks like an assassination attempt in 1958 while in Harlem, New York. King was on a break when he was approached by a woman who asked him his name. When king told her, she pulled out a steel letter opener and stabbed him in the chest. While still in the hospital Dr. King said he still supported nonviolence and wasn't angry with the woman.
He knew his journey was much bigger than what was happening then. How many of us persevere? These days it's so easy to give up. To let go. Preservice is a decision.
2.) Confidence is defined as the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
Dr. King had faith in God. He was a Baptist minister who started with a small group of people. But he knew his call was bigger and higher. Having the confidence to get out there and start talking to people about the injustice he was seeing. Injustice like black men and women being denied the right to vote even after the voting rights act of 1965.
Confidence comes from within. No one can assign you confidence. You must have it in your heart.
Being on television--I know this very well. This thing called confidence is a deflector to the haters or the people who don't like you. To be confident means you are unmoved by people's opinions. They like me: great. They don't like me; that's also great. Dr. King was facing great opposition to his fight for civil rights---and he had great confidence that what he was doing was the right thing. Some would say he saw it as his God given assignment on this earth, so he moved forward in it. Don't allow anyone to steal your confidence--which comes from the inside.
3.) Strength is defined as the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.
Dr. King was under great pressure being in the fore front of the civil rights movement. After Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 at the age of 39--the autopsy revealed that his heart was in the condition of a 60-year-old man. The doctors attributed that the daily stress--daily pressure Dr. King was under. Marches, death threats, threats to his family and loved ones. But the definition of strength as we just said is the ability to withstand it. Which he did.
What do you need strength for today? How can you withstand the pressures that you deal with? It may a bully at school--it may be a work situation. People talk about finding strength. We all have it--it comes out most when it needs to be applied. Apply it.
4.) Leadership, A leader is defined a person who guides or directs a group.
In August 1963 Dr. King spoke to about 200,000 during the March on Washington during his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. He told them his dream of racial equality and how we shouldn't give up on fighting for it. And people fought, non-violently, under his leadership. They held protests and rallies and sent letters and lobbied for justice.
Dr. King wouldn't have been able to rally anyone if he didn't encourage them. How do you lead? Who are you encouraging to be better? Who are you inspiring? That's what leadership is about. It's not about delegating everything--in some ways--like Dr. King we must lead by example.
The most respected leaders are the ones who get their hands dirty.
5.) Compassion is defined as the concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. You know Dr. King was highly educated got his PhD from Boston University at the age of 25. Things were a little better for Black people up north. He could have just stayed in the Boston area and raised his family. His future wife Coretta was at the New England Conservatory also in Boston. But Dr. King felt the pull. That pull was compassion. He saw black people beaten and refused basic rights like using a bathroom fit for human beings and being able to ride on a bus alongside white people--in the front.
In 1955 a 14-year-old boy by the name of Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi. I am not going to get into the details of Tills murder. The images and story of Till left me sleepless as a young child.
But a month after the Till lynching, Dr. King described it and said ''it might be considered one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the twentieth century."
The language Dr. King used to describe Tills death "inhuman" screams of compassion. That compassion lead to a louder call to action.
I challenge you today--reignite whatever triggers that human compassion. That's probably an area where you can make a difference.
MLK Day is over, but you can apply what we all have in common with Dr. king to your life daily. Please consider these five areas:
You don't need to be a civil rights icon. The traits are in you. Ignite them. Use them. Apply them. We all can make a difference. I think sometimes we don't believe that. But Dr. King was one person; just like you and I.