Keep the Dream Alive: Help the Dream Come True
There are so many before us who have fought the good fight, run the race to the end, and given their lives to overcome violence and injustice. Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Dr. King, Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day, and millions of other nonviolent drum majors for justice form a sacred cloud of witnesses who hover over us. They learned the courage it takes to stand up against the forces of domination and oppression, of violence and injustice. And their spirits inspire us in our own time and place to face our fears, lend our hands and voices, and work to keep their dreams alive.
But they had to face their own fears and become the courageous voices for justice that we know them as. It wasn’t any easier for them than it will be for us, as we listen to Dr. King acknowledging his own fears at age 26, just weeks after agreeing to be the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Sitting at his kitchen table in January 1956, he picked up the phone and heard --
“‘Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you. Before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.’ I hung up but I could not sleep... I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing to be a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had almost gone, I determined to take my problem to God. My head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud:
‘‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left... I can’t face it alone.’
“At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before experienced God. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything. The outer situation remained the same, but God had given me inner calm. Three nights later, our home was bombed.”
(written on the wall of the display of Dr. King’s kitchen, in the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Georgia)
For the next 12 years, Dr. King struggled against racism, war, and poverty, and offered our nation and the world a “dream.” Near the end of his short life, he returned to this dream and offered us a word of hope and challenge:
“I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had. But I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes. But inspite of that, I close today by saying that I still have a dream. Because you know that you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving. You lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on inspite of... “So this is our faith as we continue to hope -- that if there is to be peace on earth and goodwill toward all, let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.
“So today I still have a dream -- that we will rise up and come to see that we are made to live together as brothers and sisters. I still have a dream this morning -- that one day every person of color in the world will be judged on the basis of the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; that everyone will respect the dignity and worth of human personality; and that brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of a prayer, but the first order of business on every legislative agenda. I still have a dream today -- that justice will roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. I still have a dream -- that war will come to an end, that individuals will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations will no longer rise up against nations. Neither will they study war any more. I still have a dream.” (December 24, 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church)
What fears do you have when you think about challenging violence or injustice?
What and who can help you to face and overcome these fears?
What can you do to help Dr. King’s dream come true?