As Unitarian Universalists, we hear a lot of amazing, inspirational stories, some as old as language itself, others that may be finding their way to our ears for the first time ever. We love stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We listen with open minds and hearts to the teachings of religious and social justice leaders, who show us the many ways we can be and the heights we can achieve.
Today, the story of Martin Luther King Jr. rings with the timbre of freedom itself in our ears and on our lips. Martin was once a child like so many of you are. In fact he was not that different from many of you. He was kind, honest, and gentle, but had a little bit of a naughty side too.
When people walked down the street near his home in Atlanta, Georgia, he liked to frighten them by tying one of his mother’s fox furs to a stick and poking it through a bush, pretending it was a wild animal.
To get out of piano lessons, he and his younger brother tried — unsuccessfully — to scare away their piano teacher by removing some screws from the piano stool so it collapsed when the teacher sat down.
Martin Luther King Jr. hated doing the dishes, loved ice cream and the board game Monopoly, and sometimes used the heads of his sister’s dolls to play baseball.
As the son of a minister, teenage Martin was required to recite a Bible verse at the dinner table before eating. He was often hungry and impatient, so his favorite verse was the shortest, simplest verse he could find. He would bow his head, fold his hands in his lap and say “from the book of John, chapter 11, verse 35: Jesus wept.
One way in which I take great inspiration from Martin’s life story is that he had one class in college that he struggled in over and over. He got an F one year, and a C the next. In fact he never got more than a C+ in one particular class: Public Speaking. Think about that for a moment. Martin Luther King Jr failed Public Speaking! But somewhere along the way, he must have realized that public speaking was pretty important to the struggle for freedom and equality that his very name has become a symbol of. So he practiced, and practiced and became one of the most celebrated, admired public speakers of all time. This to me is proof positive that no matter what challenges stand in our way, no matter what mountains we have to climb, with a bit of practice and some work, we can all overcome.
Sources: The Washington Post