January 21, 2014 10:28:42 AM
In America, we set aside special days to commemorate, reflect and renew our resolve about a subject. These national holidays come and go, but often the fervor the holiday ignites is gone as quickly as the holiday itself. On Thanksgiving, we pause to be grateful for all that we have, then rush out to the stores for what we don't have, often before Thanksgiving Day has even passed.
Today is the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In Columbus the holiday was honored with a breakfast at the Trotter Convention Center, wrapping up the week-long observance of Dream365.
Dallas pastor Fredrick D. Haynes III, the keynote speaker at the breakfast, spoke passionately about the state of race relations as it exists today, 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Haynes correctly noted that injustice persists and correctly argued that progress will only come through continued efforts to fight the injustices where they exist. His was a call for a renewed commitment to agitating on behalf of change.
Yet for all of Haynes' fiery eloquence, today has dawned and most of us find that we have returned to our ordinary lives. We quickly discover it is one thing to be carried off on the emotional tide of a gifted speaker and quite another to apply those ideals to every-day life. We get up, go to work or school and return home to deal with the mundane chores, duties and diversions that seem to always crowd out the noble causes of our time.
If we were to be entirely honest, we might pause to wonder what the holiday really accomplished.
Has today really been influenced by the things we heard and reflected upon Monday?
It should be and, of course, it can be.
But if Monday's message is to have any real relevance in the lives of ordinary people today, a practical question emerges:
How do I -- just an ordinary, regular person --incorporate that message into my life?
Sometimes, the better path toward finding that answer is to ask how not to do that.
The best way to fail in this regard is for all of us to retreat to our largely segregated private lives and wait for someone else to do something. It is easy, maybe even natural, to view the other group as the problem rather than an essential partner in solving the problem.
But this achieves nothing. In fact, it only serves to widen the gulf of mistrust and misunderstanding.
The best path toward equality and justice is a personal path. We confirm or deny the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and all those who sacrificed in the pursuit of justice by our own, individual actions.
For whom much is given, much is required.
Most of us are ill-equipped to influence the masses or lead some righteous cause. Though our sphere of influence may be small, it does not absolve us for doing our part, as humble as it might appear to be.
Here, then, is a practical suggestion: Today, resolve to cultivate a relationship with one person from that "other" group. Begin to know that person. Find out about his or her family, job, hobbies, preferences, fears and hopes.
If we are honest, we will admit that we scarcely know each other at all.
Yet, as a society, if we are to advance the cause we celebrated on Monday, we must not continue to be two distinctly different groups casting suspicious gazes at each other across the gulf of crippling ignorance.
Knowing each other is the first step on our path toward justice. It is a step all of us are not only equipped to take but morally compelled to take.
There is, then, only one question that remains: Will you take that step?