First a confession: I’m really good at loving people…in theory. I’ve been taught how to look empathetic, how to mimic body language and at least look like I’m paying attention. I know what you’re supposed to do or say when someone is hurting.
On paper I’m pretty good at loving people.
I’ve read lots of books about loving God and loving neighbors, and I’ve given lots of thought about how to help other people love other people.
In fact, the only problem for me when it comes to loving people, is the actual people.
I also come from a generation is very cause driven. Most of the people around my age are passionate about good causes and making a dent in the universe. I think Dr. King is partially responsible for that.
Ever since I heard the story of the civil rights movement in the 60’s I’ve been drawn to the kind of ministry and churches that are working for a more Just world. I’ve read and heard a lot of Dr. King’s sermons.
I love the dream.
But all of this is not enough. Because loving the dream is much different than Dr. King’s dream of loving.
Just a few months before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church:
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize; that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards; that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
Now I love that Dr. King said don’t tell everyone about my Nobel Prize, or my hundreds of other awards. Because in saying that, he has in fact told them about it.
I love this because I can see myself doing something like that. (Not winning the Noble prize, just the subtle bragging.)
I love it because it makes Dr. King more human, it makes me see him more as a person. Which is the beauty of his point.
I read a survey a few years ago, that said 6% of white people in America, think that racism is still a problem. To help put that in perspective, consider this: 12% of people think Elvis may or may not be dead.
But 93% of African American people think that racism is still a problem. And, at least in the world that I grew up in, and know today, they are right. Maybe not racism the way we might think of it. Not many people I know call each other names out loud, but it’s the more insipid kind.
It’s the kind that comes that involves loving ideas more than the people that are behind them.
A couple of years ago, I started testing myself. I started looking at my calendar and cell phone to see who I was regularly interacting with. I wanted to ask myself the hard question of who am I spending my time with…really. Am I spending time with people who are only like me? Am I living the dream? Or just loving it?
Because no idea is more important than loving people. That’s What Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to tell his church.
You can’t love the dream. You can love people.
That is the dream.
So Thank you Dr. King for trying to love someone.