It really wasn’t a surprise yesterday to hear a sermon discussing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our President Elect. I didn’t really know what to expect out of the sermon (text and audio can be found here), but Anthony came through, as I knew he would.
There was a lot to think about (again, no surprise), so I’ll focus on the main idea I drew from the morning, society and history’s tendency to immortalize our heroes, to rob them of their humanity and foibles, and thus to do them and ourselves a great disservice.
We remember so many people from our past inaccurately. Or, perhaps not inaccurately, but incompletely. We see them for one event, or a series of them, and we forget that they were born of a human mother, had slips of the tongue, experienced massive self-doubt and cynicism, and sometimes just screwed up royally.
A story from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father shared a time when he was overcome by cynicism and overwhelmed by the difficulty of a task, a time when he vowed never to make a speech again. A friend of his set him straight, basically telling him to get his head out of his rear end and focus on the people who needed help.
Another story told of the Montgomery Bus Strike, and the request put to Dr. King to lead it. He hesitated, not wanting the responsibility, until set straight and reminded of his abilities and the change he could make by Ralph Abernathy.
The latter story would be shocking to many who stopped to think about it. THE Dr. M.L. King hesitating over leading a strike? The event that would essentially launch his leadership of the civil rights movement? But…that’s so human!
And that’s where we do ourselves and our world a disservice, because here’s the thing: We are all just as capable of making a change in the world as Dr. King or President Elect Obama. We are all made of the same flesh and bone. They made mistakes in their lives, and since Mr. Obama has many years ahead of him, he will probably make many more. Just as we all will.
So, the perfection of our heroes cannot be an excuse on our part not to act for that in which we believe. It is the responsibility of every one of us to be stewards of our fellow humankind, our planet, and our resources. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” and “I’m not a good speaker,” are no longer valid excuses once we realize that every person we idolize was or is as human as we are.
We all have our strengths and our resources and our convictions. I may not have income to share with needy organizations at the moment, or the focus of mind to organize rallies, but I have a voice and a gift with words (and a blog, and Facebook, and Twitter), so I can share that. For now, it will be enough.
What are your strengths and resources? What are your convictions? How will you use them to carry on the dream of peace, equality, and an end to suffering?