I had a conversation with a first grade student whose teacher had just shared the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was snack time. I had left my office and joined the teachers to help serve and supervise. The student called out to me.
“Mrs. McDavid, Mrs. McDavid!”
“Yes?” I walked over to her snack table and sat down.
“Did you know that before, if we were at a school with all black people or a school with all white people, I couldn’t sit with you?”
That began the type of conversation I wish everyone was privileged to have. There was an arm-to-arm skin color comparison, too. Towards the end of our time together, we both agreed that she was not really white and I was not really black.
“It is what we have inside our hearts that matters. That’s what Dr. King was saying,” I explained to her.
She nodded and then shared an incident that happened one day at recess. Yes, she understood.
I left the table smiling and returned to my desk. There I let go of the tears.
Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech has been recited by men and women, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, blacks and whites. I especially love to hear children recite the speech.
But there’s nothing like hearing and seeing the original. If you haven’t watched Dr. King give his speech or if it’s been a while since you did, you can find it here.
Several years ago, when I searched online for his speech, I found an uploaded video on YouTube. Above the comments section was this message from YouTube: “Comments are disabled [for this video] since many of them were hateful and racist.”
It has been more than 50 years since Dr. King spoke his famous words and more than 150 years since President Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.”
Yet we’re still only dreaming here in the twenty-first century.
The American slaves gained their freedom, but there are hearts today that are plantations of hate. Slavery has not gone away, and its shackled prisoners are of every color.
In his speech, Dr. King quoted passages from the Bible that refer to the “Day of the Lord”, when He returns to make all things as it is in heaven. I believe that great event will happen. And, at that time, freedom will truly ring.
The more years I live, the more sure I become that the brotherhood of man will never come through the efforts of man. There’s too much evidence for me to think otherwise.
This Sunday, the two congregations of my church (English-speaking and Spanish-speaking) will combine services for our annual “racial reconciliation” celebration. The pastors will emphasize the Gospel and celebrate how God, through our Christian faith, has torn down the “dividing wall of hostility”.
The promises of the Bible give me hope.
I have a dream: Dr. King is in heaven and he’s at peace. He doesn’t look sad and tired and angry, like he does in that video. He has no bodyguards. He’s met my mother and father. No one is thinking about the color of their skin. There is no fear, no shame, no worry, no rage. They are all looking forward to the Day when that great brotherhood will take place.
I have a dream today, and the Bible tells me that one day I will see it as a reality. Revelation 21:1-4
Updated. First posted on my “Afternoon Tea” blog, January 2012.