Those words resonate for all of us. Four simple words with an enormous message and impact in our lives then and today. As I think about Dr. King and his impact on me and my life, I am reminded of many great men that I respect and admire.
I don’t always link Dr. King in a personal way to my life. I realize that just by him being who he was and what he stood for, that I have been privileged to know strong and important men in my life.
My father being one of those men. He helped shape my concept of respecting and loving everyone regardless of their race or religion or beliefs, by the way he conducted his own life. My brother and I learned to be mindful of racial slurs, we didn’t understand why others didn’t realize the wounds that words can cause. My dad was a hard working, loving family man, that wanted his family to be safe and healthy and happy and successful. It seemed so obvious, that’s just how we lived. I think I may have taken my childhood for granted, as I didn’t know there was any other way to live.
This picture was taken in Detroit, in 1990…I know, I was much younger!!! This is one of the last pictures taken with me and my dad.
My husband was another man that I respected and admired. Interestingly, my dad and Butch had many similairities. I think much of it stems from the way Butch was raised by hard working auto workers in Detroit. Everyone was respected, regardless of the color of their skin. Consequently, he brought that sensitivity into our married life.
Legacy to me means the passing of one’s personal belief systems through the generations of our families and community. It’s clear that Dr. King had a vision that lives on not only in his family, but inspires a nation to pause and reflect on his message of equality and peace for everyone.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for a man that lived 91 tremendous years, 65 of them married to a wonderful woman. These two amazing people have lived in our community of Westchester since 1948. They have 3 children and 7 grandchildren and 2 great grand-children.
Over 400 people attend the celebration of his life, held in our Westchester YMCA gym. It was as if our community took a day off, and showed up to support and acknowledge a life well lived. There were many outstanding stories shared by the kids, and grandkids resulting in belly laughs and tears; all because we understood what Alan stood for, his legacy, his ability to treat others fairly and with dignity.
He loved deeply, as did Dr. King, my dad and Butch. These men represent what is good in the world. The “if only” enters my soul. If only, Dr. King could have continued his message to a grand age of 91, what would our world look like today? If only my dad could have reached that marker, he had so much more to give. And of course, my Butch, if only.
So through the tears, we acknowledge those strong men that we love. While today may not be Father’s Day, Dr. King, thank you, Happy Birthday. Thank you for being the leader you were to a nation that so desperatley needed your voice then and today.