Friends, on this MLK, Jr. Day, I thought I would share something written by John Lewis, a compatriot of Dr. King and a leader in the ongoing battle for freedom, dignity and justice. John reflected on his life-long striving towards transforming flawed and broken places into beloved communities. His words are relevant for today. Let us not grow faint of heart. Let us remain committed to the cause. Until justice rolls down like a mighty river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24)
On this particular afternoon – it was a Saturday, I’m almost certain – about fifteen of us children were outside’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore.
And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up….I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.
That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift.
And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies….
It seemed that way in the 1960’s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams – so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.
And then another corner would lift, and we would go there….And eventually, inevitably, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand.
But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again.
And we did.
And we still do, all of us. You and I.
Children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me – not just the movement for civil rights but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole.
That is the story, in essence, of my life, of the path to which I’ve been committed….It is a path that extends beyond the issue of race alone, and beyond class as well. And gender. And age. And every other distinction that tends to separate us as human beings rather than bring us together.
Excerpt from prologue. Lewis, John (1988). Walking With the Wind. New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster