A Man Who Tried to Live Well

Today is not just another day, it is the third Monday of January, 2012 and a holiday when the birth of an American iconic figure is celebrated.  If Martin Luther King, Jr. were still living he would have been eight-three yesterday.  

Growing up in the deep-south in Alabama I remember the adults around me had a mixed bag of feelings regarding Dr. King.  Most of all I saw fear behind what was said.  I was too young to fully grasp what was going on, but Dr. King impressed me in his ability to express himself and inspire people.  As a child I did not have to comprehend everything he talked about to be moved by his speeches. Such passion and good intention was easy to comprehend even for a youngster.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat I was not two years old yet.  By the march on Washington I was ten.  In 1967 when Martin Luther King came out against the war in Vietnam I was two years into my teens.  It was then Dr. King’s position on an issue matched exactly something very personal to me:  opposition to the war.  Never was I against the soldiers and have always maintained great respect for those who served.  Rather it was the politicians’ attitude of conducting a “police action” that even a fourteen year-old could figure out was wrong. 

Today I still lament the great amount of death, injury and harm that was caused by the Vietnam War that served not one single positive purpose that I know of.  It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught me it is OK to stand for something, even when that stance is not popular with a lot of people.  I will always be grateful for what I learned from him about trying to do good and make a difference in this world.  

Many will write today about the life, politics, beliefs and principles of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I choose instead to offer a simple homage to him as a man who tried to live well.  I am confident Dr. King would have enjoyed these two poems and the thought by a close associate of his that ends this blog today.   

“A Daily Inventory” by Mildred Bettag
Did I stop to smell the flowers,
And appreciate the small things along the way
Did I look for the good in people,
That I met along the way?
Did I see the beauty in God’s creation,
As in the thing created by man,
Did I count each day the blessings,
In my life since it began?
Did I listen with caring and compassion,
And walk in another’s shoes,
Did I offer a shoulder to lean on,
Did I practice the Golden Rule?
Did I kill my anger in its early stages
Before it had time to sprout,
And grow to its full maturity,
Where love is crowded out?
Did I blindfold my eyes from Life’s sunshine,
To avoid the pain that comes from Life’s nights,
To only live in the ugliness of darkness,
Never to see the beauty of morning’s light?
Did I let my heart seek vision and purpose,
When I was lonely and filled with fear,
Did I stop and ask God for directions,
Did I give hurt time-out for tears?
Did I practice the words “I’m Sorry”,
And try to correct wrongs to make them right,
Did I forgive the ones who’ve hurt me,
Before I fall asleep at night? 

“Clock of Life” by Wilfred Grindle Conary
The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop,
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time that you own.
You must live, love, and work with a will.
Place no faith in tomorrow;
For the clock may then be still.

It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. It lies in having no goal to reach. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace not to have any stars to reach. Not failure, but low aim, is the real sin. Benjamin Elijah Mays

Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
“Rest in Peace”