Monday, January 17, 2011
Martin Luther King Jr
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many people have the day off from work and school to celebrate this man’s life. In high school and college, I learned a little about the man. His era in history isn’t my favorite, so there are many gaps in my knowledge. This morning I thought I would close up a few of the gaps.
In my quick study, I learned that Martin Luther was originally named Michael King Jr. after his father at his birth on January 15, 1929. At the age of six, his family traveled to Germany. Soon after the trip, his father changed both his and his sons name to Martin Luther in honor of the protestant reformation leader. I believe the year was 1959 when an attempt was made on Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. As he put it in a speech, a demented black woman came up to him during a book signing. She stabbed him in the chest. Just a sneeze away, the tip of the knife would have struck his aorta drowning him in his own blood. Many people wrote to him: the president and the vice president to name a few. Yet he held dearest a letter from a high school girl who was very glad he didn’t sneeze. She was a white girl. I knew Mr. King spoke at many protests, but I didn’t realize he wrote five books. My must read list is getting bigger every moment.
Most people have studied or heard parts of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Today I went out and read “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” He gave the speck on April 3rd 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. It would be his last big public address, for he was assassinated the next day. While reading his speech, I highlighted many paragraphs. I loved his writing and the intertwining of Biblical passages that he put in the text. One story he took from the Bible struck me as a way to continue my journey to holiness.
He begins the idea with this statement, “Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” Then Mr. King goes on to talk about the story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told. Many of you know the story about how a man was stuck by thieves and laying on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. This road was very dangerous with its twists and turns and steep grade. I imagine it to be much like the Going to the Sun highway in Glacier Park only with bandits and thieves. Well, a priest and a Levite rode right past the man and didn’t stop to help. Instead, a Samaritan stopped to administer aid to the man. Mr. King describes the Samaritan as “a man of another race.” I have also been told Samaritans were looked down by the people of Jesus’ time and they would have been shocked to hear of one being spoken of as doing such a good act.
Mr. King challenges the people of Memphis to quit asking the question that the priest and the Levite probably asked. “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” He continues to challenge them by asking the question the Samaritan must have asked. “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Instead of worrying about the me of a situation, we should worry about the he or she. We need to stop being selfish. Martin Luther King Jr. did just that. His life work was to help people to be free even if it meant giving up his life. Now, I don’t believe we need to be martyrs to successfully finish our journey to holiness, but we do need to not be selfish.
I challenge you, develop your dangerous unselfishness.
Blessing to you all.