“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
— The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Monday, January 20, 2020, we will celebrate the life and the dream of the slain civil rights leader the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some know and some don’t realize that 2020 will mark 52 years, more than a half century, since his death by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Dr. King’s words live on, and in cases of access to social and political opportunities for many in our nation, neither his works nor his sacrifice have gone unrewarded. Happily in today’s world, people of all races, creeds and colors are allowed access to educational, social and political opportunities that, in the lifetime of Dr. King, and his forebears was truly, “a dream.” One part of the dream “deferred” deals with the quote by Dr. King at the beginning of this column, “What are you doing for others?” If you can’t make a difference with a hundred people or, even 10, maybe you can make a difference with one or a couple. How can I do that? It’s a question worth asking, and one that deserves and answer, and it’s very simple.
Exercise in your daily life more kindness, less narrow-mindedness and more openness to the ideals and ideas of others, and remember folks can have a disagreement without being “disagreeable.” That’s something worth pondering.
If someone doesn’t necessarily have your same opinion, allow that person to have their own opinion, but within the framework where you CAN, exercise kindness, civility and tolerance, and, in that way, you will have paved the road to mutual understanding.
My philosophy of education during the years I spent in and out of the classroom was a very simple one: “Children may not always remember what you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
During this week when we anticipate the celebration of the Dr. King’s national holiday, I want to pay tribute to some folks, some have forgotten and others never knew in a small corner of the world that was economically and politically insignificant and steeped in the traditions of the deep South as much as any place in the Mississippi Delta, my own hometown of White Springs, Florida. A small school, South Hamilton Elementary, and a group of adults, educators and everyday citizens, who modeled for many students “how” to live and the fact that “respect wins respect.” It wasn’t easy for any of them, but they did it in their own way, and they did it at a time of major social transition, the full desegregation of the schools. In many parts of the nation, buildings burned, folks marched and fought, but in our corner of the world, peace prevailed despite many differences, and, this was due, to the “calm,” “professionalism” and striving for peace and understanding in a small corner of the world in the Deep South here in north Florida. There may be some who will point to the faults these individuals had, and just like the one writing this column, and the ones who are reading it, there was not perfection, but what there was, a willingness to try, a willingness to cooperate, a willingness to give life and love and all that it entails a chance. Utopia? Hardly. It was the Best of times and the Worst of times, but their example did provide a big step in the right direction of smoothing the pathway for a better tomorrow, and, through example, teaching us “how to think” and not “what to think.” Big difference.
One of the greatest things parents in today’s world can do is to make a new commitment to spend more time with your children and actually put some time into “raising them.” This task won’t be easy, and it is a task. It demands, many times laying aside personal prejudices and inculcated cultural beliefs and having faith in others. You cannot be the single inspiration in your child’s life, he or she will come into contact with others. How you treat those individuals and what you say about them will have as much an influence on the life of your child as anything. If you value education, your child will value education. If you don’t value it, your child won’t value it. If you speak well and support your child’s school and teachers, he or she will learn that, despite, occasional differences, respect is an important factor in getting along in the world.
In today’s world, if anything, there may be more turmoil, more mistrust, more lack of tolerance than there was more than 50 years ago, I don’t know. What I do know is there is always the opportunity to do “for others” and “to do” in a way that is positive and kind. If each of us will work to do that, we might move towards a better tomorrow and realize the dream for which Dr. King gave his life for a more than half century ago. It’s worth trying on a daily basis. He did, and his dream lives on. The dream lives, but we must help the dream be realized, and that means working at it on a daily basis.
I deeply apologize for the misinformation given in my column about the retirement of Mrs. McManus from the Stephen Foster gift shop. It is not true. Through the years we have seen many changes occur at Stephen Foster and will see many more. My advice to vendors, and I am not one, is to take your concerns directly to the Park Manager. This is called a chain of command. Again, my sincere apologies to the staff of the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park and to Mrs. McManus.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filed with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.