Searching for My Dream

24 Jan

Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I often think of the man who moved millions of people toward collective action. But in these introspective days of mine, his words are really hitting me on a personal level.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not…the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It does no good to be a person with progressive values who is not willing to take action, action that may be uncomfortable, grueling, difficult. I sat in the front row of a speech by Reverend Al Sharpton during the MLK, Jr. holiday and he said many important things about today’s fight to maintain the safety net of public programs. But what stuck with me most is when he said, “Ask yourself: what is my contribution?”

This question keeps running through my head. Life in Orange County is so…easy. Day after day, I can go about my life and have a nice time – all without having done anything of real value. I’m not saying that working to pay the bills, spending time with loved ones, and staying healthy have no value. But I’m privileged enough that these things don’t take hard work. I can do more. But I haven’t.

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist and other allegories on finding one’s purpose, writes, “Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life…We ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give…what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.”

Rev. Sharpton said that when you die, ask yourself what you want your eulogy to say. This may seem a bit extreme for motivation, but it puts things in sharper focus. A website shared this potential eulogy: “She never ruffled any feathers, took any great risks, suffered any great loss. She always operated within the bounds of appropriateness. She had the love and acceptance of her community, family, and friends though no one knew her. Her life was smooth sailing because she never rocked the boat. She contained her passion, her dreams, and her danger enough that they could call her a good woman.”

Some days, I feel lost. I know what interests me, but I don’t know what moves me, what I’m passionate about. Other days, I feel like hints and clues drift my way.

Life is a grand adventure. You only get out of life what you’re willing to put into it, what you’re willing to ask for. “I have a dream,” Dr. King proclaimed. What is mine?


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