As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Today I thank Ruminate Magazine for posting these perfect words on their Facebook Page. Liam (my nine-year old son) asked me if we should say a prayer for Dr. King today. I asked him what we would say, and we talked about how Dr. King did the right things instead of the easy things. We talked about how he left little children like Liam without a father when he was assassinated for doing what was right. Liam remembered that Dr. King spoke about his little children in some of his speeches. Liam said that at least the kids had their mom, and I thought of the King family and what they’ve suffered and continued to do in the spirit of the quote above.
My family is as white as the moon; we glow in the dark. We are a mixed muddle of Welsh, German, French, Scottish (by way of Canada on my side and by way of Ellis Island on Jim’s), Danish, and British – all variations of translucent skin. I know nothing in my life experience about being judged by my skin color or feeling the effect of it. What I know is from observation, and my response is horror for the perpetrators and empathy for those judged by the arbitrary amount of melanin in their skin. I don’t “know” this experience, but I am open to listen, to learn, and to love, and I hope with all my heart that this is the example Jim and I are setting for our children.
While I don’t know what it is to be the target of racism, I do know the shame of having relations whose ignorance is palpable and horrifying. My beloved grandfather responded to my compliments for the adoring nurse’s aide who bent over backward to make his stay at a nursing home as pleasant as possible with a flippant, “She’s not so bad for a chink,” response. In anger I cut my stay short and burned for days. I know that my Grandpa, who served in the Navy during WWII, had a different sense of equality than I have. But his words brought to mind many Asian American friends I’ve had over the years and I took it very personally. I hope that I’ve bred that out of my family tree. I hope I’ve strangled off that branch of hate.
While I don’t know Dr. King’s suffering or the suffering of his family in my own realm of experience, I do know suffering. I know what it is to battle for my child’s life. I have suffered my own helplessness during circumstances where all choices were difficult and no path was easy. I believe that “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
I know there are stories of infidelity, and that Dr. King was no saint. I don’t want to talk about these character flaws because all humans are flawed. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone. It’s not the individual sins that make the whole person. Sin is God’s domain to judge not mine. However, it’s Dr. King’s spirit to overcome the inequities for all that is the domain, the inspiration, and the aspiration for every human being. Dr. King may have failed (as we all do) to be a perfect human, but he excelled at inspiring and giving everything, including his life, to make our world a better place. I can think of no better role model on the eve of Heart Month when we make our big push to raise awareness of the underfunded war against the silent assassin that is Congenital Heart Disease in America and the world-over. I take courage and inspiration from Dr. King and this perfect quote today. May God give us all the courage to follow the latter course and transform our suffering into a creative force. May we always remember the power of hope and love in the face of fear and suffering.
(P.S. I will automatically delete any response that I feel is racist or insensitive to the memory of Dr. King or any minority. This is my blog that I pay for with my own money and no sponsorship at all, so I owe no person a platform for hate).