One Monday in January when my children were quite young and impressionable, their father and I took them to a parade followed by a large event in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Our children took home many lessons that day about King’s message of peace and equality, but what stuck with them most was his idea of having a dream.
It’s difficult enough for children to understand dreams as something that happens in the mind while asleep, but it is even more difficult to to explain the kind of dreams Martin Luther King spoke of in the speech he gave on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Dreams as cherished aspirations, ambitions and ideals was the stuff of King’s speech to the 200,000 people who peacefully journeyed there that day and reverberates in our hearts and minds sixty years later.
Martin Luther King taught my children, as he teaches us all, the power of keeping dreams alive. He sparked in them an understanding about the importance of having faith in big dreams – not just their own, but those of their fellow man, and those of a nation.
In 1922, Langston Hughes wrote in a poem called Dreams, “Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Thirty years later, the same poet asked in another poem, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
Martin Luther King refused to sit back and watch his dream be deferred. Nor did he want it to explode in violence or shatter and disappear. The Baptist minister gave his life to the dream of advancing civil rights in the United States through faith, nonviolent activism, and hope in the brotherhood of man.
In his song Shed a Little Light James Taylor sings these words, “Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth. Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong. We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead. We are bound and we are bound.”
On Monday, when you are off from work, when the kids are home from school, when you find yourself grumbling that the bank and post office are closed, turn your thoughts to Martin Luther King. Contemplate his dream, your dream, your child’s dream and every child’s dream. Vow to hold tight to those dreams, to work to help make them come to fruition and never be a dream deferred. §
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.