Though I have been blogging here since 2006, this is only my third MLK Day post. I put quotes around Happy in the title because I’m not so sure this is a day that ought to be about happiness.
Maybe I should say it this way: I’m not sure today ought to be about one’s own happiness. For some, it is not a holiday but a day of service. I think King himself would have appreciated this particular way of recognition of his birthday. After all, he did say that
Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
But that’s the kind of thing many different people are likely saying about observance of MLK Day. So why read this post?
Because I want to add this. Something about the Civil Rights Movement that I did not know untila few years ago is that it was such a multigenerational effort. Much of hte protesting was done by young people while older adults held down their jobs. Patient, steady training in the ways of nonviolence were practiced over and over because entire families, even communities, were commited to peaceableness.
In 2010 I posted about race issues and whether or not we have made progress since MLK’s day. While we have not yet overcome, we have indeed made progress. However, if injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as King suggested, I don’t think we ought to rest on our laurels.
In fact, whatever ground we have made up for on race relations over the past 40 years, I contend we have gotten worse on matters of generational relations. Is there an issue today over which whole families, indeed, entire comunities, will rally to work together?
I fear we are inter-generationally much less connected now than we were as a society 40 years ago. I shared here, in 2007, startling truth from Kenda Creasy Dean’s Practicing Passion about this disconnection. The problem is NOT the young people. The problem is that the adults have let go of them! Here is Dean’s explanation:
Tagged “the Autonomous Generation” by the New York Times in 1998, today’s adolescents have few adults or institutions who are prepared to ‘be there’ for them till the end of the age, or till the end of high school for that matter….
The distinctive feature of childhood in the late twentieth century… was the way adults pulled away from youth, despite young people’s expressed desire for a significant adult presence in their lives. (Practicing Passion, p.78, emphasis added)
Today; this year for MLK Day, and, if you will, throughout the rest of the year, let all of us who are adults refuse to pull away from young people! We can become a nation for whom 11::00am on Sunday is not the most segregated hour of the week. We can continue to overcome the fragmenting by race, class, culture, and faith in our society. But we can do these things only if we stick together.