Archive for Martin Luther King Jr.

Our life is better

[text] Our Life Is Better When We Work Together

I like marching bands.  How many of you like marching bands?  They make great music, and they are fun to watch.  Anyway, Rev. Barberia asked me to speak to you today because this week we celebrated a very important birthday.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary man.  He brushed his teeth.  He put on his pants one leg at a time.  He went to school.  He used a pen and paper to write down his ideas.  He believed in God.  He looked at the world with two eyes, smelled the world with his nose.  He loved his wife and he loved his children.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary man.

In other ways, Martin Luther King, Jr. was extraordinary.  He went to college when he was fifteen years old.  The ideas that he wrote down with his pen and paper helped the government of the United States live up to its promises to its all of its citizens.  The words he spoke inspired people when he was alive, and continue to inspire people today, over forty years after his death.  He was the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  He was made a saint in the Episcopal Church.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was also extraordinary.

Both in his ordinary and extraordinary senses, though, Martin Luther King, Jr. was just one person.  He had one brain, one mouth, two eyes, two hands, two feet.  He couldn’t be in Washington, D.C. and Selma, Alabama at the same time.  He couldn’t give a speech at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church while he was giving a speech at a synagogue.  He couldn’t be in jail, arrested for civil disobedience, and speaking to the President of the United States at the same time, though he did all of these things in his lifetime.  He couldn’t teach people to be non-violent protesters, lead protests, write speeches, go to college, preach at his church, go on television, fight for civil rights, speak out against war, sleep, eat and be a good father all by himself.

He needed help.  Just as we all do, he needed to work with other people in order to accomplish all of the great things that he accomplished.  He needed parents to show him how to brush his teeth, and how to put on his pants, and to introduce him to God.  He needed teachers to instruct him how to use the paper and pen, and how to string his words together to express his ideas.  He needed other people who believed that the laws in the United States were wrong in order to get those laws changed.  He needed others who understood that each person is a child of God, deserving of love and respect and support, in order to battle for change in a non-violent and peaceful way.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Who knows what a drum major is?  What is their job? Yes, they are the leaders of a marching band.  A drum major is the person out in front, usually in a crazy costume, keeping time for the band while entertaining the crowd.  Why would this ordinary, this extraordinary, man call himself a drum major?  Because he understood one simple thing:

Life is better when we work together.

As talented as he was, as talented as we all are, we can do much, much more when we work with (and for) other people.

This is a truth that allowed the founding fathers and other English colonists to form a new country called the United States of America; this is a truth that supported abolitionists who fought to end slavery in these United States; this is a truth that helped women gain full citizenship, and people working in hard jobs get fair pay to feed their families.  Working together is how people in the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the laws to make black people, brown people, yellow people, red people, Christian people and Jewish people equal in the United States.

And here at school, that truth holds, too.  From the soccer field to the basketball court; from class retreats to physics projects; from everyone throwing away their own trash and unplugging their chargers in order to help the planet; from putting on medieval town plays to performing the school musical;  Our life is easier when we work with (and for) each other.  And we can make a difference in the world when we find people to help us, or find people we can help, who share our goals.

And though we take this week to learn from Martin Luther King, Jr., his lesson is one that we can learn everyday from the ordinary, from the extraordinary, people around us.  People like Les Frost, who sets an example of love, respect and EKG for parents, teachers, staff and students each day; people like Howard Anderson who demonstrates by the smile on his face and the bounce in his step the blessing we have to be alive; people like Kristin Barberia, who reaches out each and every day to help us open our eyes, open our hearts and open our minds to the grace we can find in each other.

Dr. King said that he was a drum major, because he knew that the drum major needed help, too.  The drum major is nothing without the band.  Our life is better when we work together.

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