Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's Over

Today is the Day After Martin Luther King Day. I'm exhausted. The local celebration required monthly meetings beginning in September, several thousand (or hundred) emails trying to coordinate program elements, visits to the studio providing the dances, visits to stores to put up flyers, picking up programs, folding programs, etc. etc.

Then, last night, arriving early, discovering the things that still needed to be done, recruiting last-minute volunteers, and folding more programs.

All of a sudden it was 6:45. Both the dancers and the singer/piano player had done their run-throughs. The doors to the auditorium opened, the prelude slide show started. Local officials lined up back stage. Then, at 7, the school superintendent welcomed the crowd. The mayor, the city manager, and a local artist spoke, placing Dr. King's legacy into their perspectives. Then a great dance by a young corps and a great song by a young composer.

Then me. Originally, I thought I'd be part of the invocation, speaking alongside local officials. But I didn't really belong in that group. I'm just a retired woman, writing stuff in her upstairs study. Still, I thought something was missing from the program. I thought the kids in the audience (winners of the art and essay contests run by local schools) needed to be reminded of something important.

Great men and women don't start out either grown up or great. Like everyone else, they start out as kids. 

Martin Luther King Jr.'s life changed when he was six years old. Just before school was to start, he rang his best friend's doorbell. He want to play but his friend's father said his son couldn't play with Martin any more. Why? Because Martin was black and his friend was white.

Until that moment, Martin had not realized the huge separation between blacks and whites. In the city where he grew up, black people couldn't sit at the lunch counters with whites, or drink out of the same water fountains. And black children could not go to school -- or play -- with white children.

Martin's who life was dedicated to ending that separation. He helped change the world. His dedication began one moment when he was six years old.

There are still many things that need changing. I have two questions for the kids here tonight: When will your moment be? What will you do to change the world?

The evening went on. Awards were given for the winners of the essay and art contests. Another great dance number and the requisite 'thank-you's'. People stayed around afterward, enjoying refreshments and learning about local non-profit organizations. They were still there when I left, a little after 8:30.

It had turned out to be a great evening. Most people were unaware of the glitches. And, I hope, the kids and grownups alike remembered some of the many things Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us: things can be changed through non-violent means and any of us can change the world we live in.

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