Yesterday I participated in a Marade, a combination of march and a parade, for the first time. Marching through Denver with thousands of people (literally!) representing multiple races, cultures, and creeds to honor the legacy of one of America’s greatest leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., was wonderful. Parents bundled up kids and walked hand-in-hand or pulled the little ones in wagons. People sang, danced, waved flags, and banged drums. Others laughed, and some cried. I held my first protest sign-“Stop racial profiling”-and “yelled” racial justice chants, which went something like, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Violent cops have got to go!” All in all, it was quite the experience.
All too often I notice what is different about the person next to me, but it takes courage, I think, to get past that response and see the humanness of someone, the parts of him or her that are just like me. Growing up with faith and family, I tricked myself, thinking I was immune to prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry, but, sadly, this just isn’t true. I’m as messed up as KKK members, and I perpetuate systems of oppression and privilege without even thinking about it sometimes.
But days like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day remind me to hope, to dream, and to stand up against things I don’t believe in to build up what I do believe. And, most of all, days like these remind me that, despite our imperfections (yeah yeah yeah, all that stuff about MLKJ cheating on his wife and the futility of social movements like Occupy, etc. — my articulate response: haters gonna hate) we can move forward. I am in recovering, seizing each day as a chance to not do the messed up thing.
No, it won’t be perfect, and someday, if I have kids, I am certain I will cry over the injustice, pain, and inhumane shit that goes on in this world. But I’ll teach them, show them that forgiveness, grace, truth, and love are the most important things. That differences might weaken us, but they are more capable of strengthening us. That the most courageous people on this planet are the ones who stand up, speak, and join hands with the forgotten, lonely, and unloveable people of the world, when the rest turn away, ridicule, reject, or ignore them. That the brave are the ones who dare to be vulnerable, to listen to stories, to serve others out of the depths of the heart in addition to the volume of the wallet. I’ll take them to things like marades and soup kitchens, not because it will be the right thing to do, but the necessary thing to do.
All this: it’s illuminating darkness with brightness. It’s bringing this world one step closer to the kingdom.
And that, more than anything, is what I want to learn to be better at.