I planned to write this post on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but well, life got the better of me.
I like that MLK was a Capricorn. It explains all that tenacity! I haven't seen Selma yet (it hasn't come to my little neck of the woods) but from what I have read over the years, Dr. King was a complex man who at his very core, knew right from wrong. And when he saw wrong, he did something about it.
Sounds so simple, huh? Lord I struggle some days not to say all the stupid shit that hops into my head.
Some days I do say it. And then I have to say "do better, Wendy" and I try again.
But that life and death stuff that Dr. King and the other champions of Freedom then and now did and do, well that's in a league of its own.
But I let it inspire me, because if we're going to have role models in this life, they might as well be ones worth having, mightn't they?
I am reminded daily that angry thoughts against oneself and others are a form of violence that should be curbed and sanded away as much as possible. That energy has to go somewhere and it doesn't help.
But surely, the ongoing racial and religious intolerance of this world can't help but engender such thoughts. I know it does in me sometimes.
Then I am reminded of Dr. King's words and know that I have to let those feelings go and find positive ways to make a difference, and the first way is always the most personal - being careful and kind in the things I say.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
I recently read the amazing book, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
Winner of a National Book Award last fall, the book is Jacqueline's retelling of her childhood, in verse.
It is amazing.
And while some will say this is a children's book, I think this is the most eloquent beautiful book and should be read and treasured by every age.
Her use of language to evoke images is haunting and inspiring.
In the poem called Ghosts she writes:
In downtown Greenvillethey painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,except on the bathroom doors,they didn't use a lot of paintso you can still see the words, right therelike a ghost standing in frontstill keeping you out
Stories and poems are often the best way to touch us I think.
As I read my way through the book I thought of how Jacqueline Woodson is exactly my age.
I thought of how she grew up in the Deep South during the Civil Rights Movement, then moved to New York City as a young girl.
I thought of how I grew up in a small town of almost all white people in Canada.
And yet, every single poem resonated with me. So many of our life experiences of childhood were the same. I could feel what she felt, I could smell it, I could taste it.
Once we step in another's shoes, really step in, we are forever changed, part of us cracking open, even the tiniest bit, letting that ray of understanding and love shine in.
Tomorrow I will try and do better. That's all we can ever do I guess. And mostly what I will try and do better at is forgiving more and being kinder. And open my mouth about things that aren't right when I need to. But in a firm, loving way, just like Dr. King did.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate;only love can do that.
The journey is long, but it's worth taking, and it's not so bad when you have friends along the way...