Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Greetings, Wellness Warriors! Today Americans nationwide will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Aside from honoring Dr. King’s birthday, MLK Day helps us remember the overwhelming impact the scholar, minister, and civil rights leader had on race relations in America and aims to inspire us to serve our communities in the same way.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dedicated his life to the fight against racism and segregation in the Deep South. He was pivotal to creating and enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For his work, Dr. King was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 before delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 – five years before his untimely death in 1968.
In both word and action, he had a profound and immeasurable impact both at home and abroad. Today, as we honor his life and his memory, we note a few ways in which the rest of us can follow the example of this great man.
Love Always Wins
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the power of love. He taught people around him to love. He believed that hating people was stooping low, and no one should ever fall prey to hate. A lesson we can learn from Dr. King is that we can carry love in our hearts, even while fighting against injustice.
Currently, the human population has a common enemy to hate, the virus that has turned our world upside down. We could choose to be bitter, but I prefer to find ways to continue to be positive and show love to those around me.
“If you can’t fly then run; if you can’t run then walk; if you can’t walk then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is marked by a string of high-profile achievements, like his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, his open Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and his participation in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, many of these successes came after years of repeated interactions with a hostile, racist public, who did everything in their power to maintain segregation’s stronghold over the Southern United States. MLK’s activism led him to be arrested an incredible 29 times. Segregationists bombed his family home in 1956, and he was the victim of a near-fatal assassination attempt ten years before James Earl Ray took his life in 1968.
For us, life promises to be a series of obstacles, victories, successes, and failures. Our job is to figure out how to press on, overcome, and come out better on the other side. We owe it to others to use what we have learned through our adversity to help them persevere and pay it forward.
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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. was passionate about serving the community. As the son and grandson of two well-known Atlanta ministers, Dr. King grew up in an environment that prioritized serving one’s neighbors over one’s self. Once an adult, Dr. King translated his experiences within the church and the teachings that he received into a lifelong devotion to civil rights. He worked tirelessly to motivate others to join his efforts, which he considered an act of service to the American people.
King believed that service could be a catalyst for improved communities and, eventually, a changed world. But, as long as there are still communities in need, Dr. King’s work is not done. So, ask yourself: how can you use your talents to carry on MLK’s legacy? Where can you help in your community, neighborhood, workplace or your own family? I have found that serving others often helps me more than it does those I am serving.
That is the reason I wrote “30 Summers More,” which began as a chronicle of the 60,000 people I had overseen the care of. While I was writing the book, I ended up in the hospital. I’ve always been a hard-charging CEO who’s burned the midnight oil. Consequently, I ended up in the hospital with a gastrointestinal issue in which I was about two seconds away from a blood transfer and surgery. While in the hospital I wanted to work on the manuscript, and I realized that the book was not about the 60,000 people I’ve cared for; the book was about 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-year-old people who are taking care of other people and not focusing on themselves.
That started a mission for me, where I became obsessed with finding out about the best practices of living not only a long life but a good quality of life. If you give up on your purpose, you give up on life.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
To be human means messing up in one way or another. And those failures impact our relationship with ourselves and others. That’s why forgiveness was an essential part of Martin Luther King’s Teachings. He had so many things he could have held grudges for and resented those who oppressed him. But he knew that holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and holding onto grievances and hate only hurts you in the long run. Keep in mind that forgiveness doesn’t excuse wrong behavior. It merely frees us from the life-draining bondage of resentment. Is there something you have been holding onto that you need to forgive? Imagine how it would feel to be freed from that resentment and negativity.
Do What Is Right
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
This final point is perhaps his most significant lesson of all: When we come across something wrong, it is not enough to keep your head down, content to know you’re not perpetuating the wrong. You must act and right the wrong. It isn’t easy, but, as King reminds us, it’s what will ultimately define us. And wouldn’t you rather be remembered as someone who took action for what’s right? Let us all find ways that we can do more and be better.
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!