Visionary

He was a visionary,I told them. He wasn’t a perfect man, but the world changed because of him. We need more people like him. Visionaries.
We are driving to church and I am telling them about the march the following day. A worship service is scheduled in the morning and following it, the people are marching. They are marching to the Capitol for a celebration. Commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At church, our pastor reads us the story of Samuel—how God speaks to him when he is just a boy. And she mentions Dr. King and says that if God puts a dream in your heart…you must be listening to hear his voice. And she tells a story that I have never heard about the fears Dr. King faced and how he heard God’s voice.
And I am stuck on this:
Then the Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
The Lord came. And stood there.
So I tell the boys we need to go. We need to go and march to the Capitol.
Only, I forget that I’ve scheduled two meetings at just the wrong times and there’s no way we’ll make it. So, instead, we march down to the creek and I climb up on the bridge, much to the horror of my children, and I read the last part of the speech from my iPhone—that part that gives me goose bumps—I call it out over moving water, preach it to the gaping windows of my neighbor’s houses.
I have a dream, I say. That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream, I say.  That one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
And I’m standing high and looking down and my boy looks up at me, alarmed. He realizes I’m going to see this thing through. And I am not whispering.
He looks around.
Mom, come down from there,he says. 
But I keep on.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 
I have a dream today!
And my neighbor comes outside with her dog. She’s still in her pajamas. It’s the same woman who saw me sitting in my van in the middle of the street at 8:00am. Because Jeffrey wanted me to drive him down to see if the creek is frozen. 
But I go on.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
 My boy is looking up at me and I can see it. I can see when the shift happens. 
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day…
He is looking up and I see him realize. That God came. And He stood beside Martin. 
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual…
And when I finish, he helps me down. He takes my arm and his lingers on mine for a moment. 
We read that essay in English Lit. When we were studying persuasive essays, he says.
And I know that this is his way of saying it’s pretty cool. 
Well, I say. It’s very passionate.
 
And, he says. Very persuasive.
Indeed. 
And he’s smiling, and I’m thinking, oh yes…the world needs more visionaries.
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
with the amazing Jen:
and dear Michelle too:

                                                       

Comments

  1. says

    Yesterday didn’t feel like MLK Day. But today, reading your blog, it does. I love the picture of you, standing on a bridge, reciting Martin’s words.

    God bless America!

  2. says

    Any day you get a “it’s pretty cool” from a teenage boy, you know that hills and mountains are being made low and rough places made plain. Keep living the dream!

  3. says

    Amazing, Laura!! Your son will always remember that! Thank you for sharing how you were true to your voice that day, being led by God to speak up from high, loud and clear, not caring what any one else thought or said…..a soul led by Him, that is who you are!!…free indeed….
    Blessings, Cate

  4. says

    I.love.this! Every last picture of you on the bridge over waters…it is so beautiful and FREE…I’ve been thinking a lot about that yearning to be free and when you started reading that speech my heart sang happy for the vision of you living free! Amen&Amen…and for THAT DAY we still yearn and long…and so we dream and live the dream!

  5. says

    More than once I have embarrased my children when I was outspoken. However there are things that MUSR be done and said and you were good. I could hear you from here.
    When you were through I liked the change in attitude of your son.
    Lovely Post!

  6. says

    I would’ve driven down to West Virginia had I known this was going on. We would have loved to see it! And you, sweet Laura.

    I agree, your boy will always remember and be proud.

  7. says

    I must admit – shamefacedly – to a little bit of a ho-hum attitude yesterday. Oh, yeah, a holiday. Completely forgetting the power of these words, this man, these convictions! You brought tears to my eyes, Laura- I could SEE you there and I could see your son’s change in posture, the slant of the sun on his face, the embarrassment morphing to wonder. Oh, yes. Thanks be to God. I HAVE A DREAM… Amen. Let’s hear it for the dreamers. They stand in God’s shadow.

  8. says

    Oh, I love this speech. I dissected it aplenty as a grad student studying rhetoric. This speech is superb in every way.

    I love the way you likened MLK Jr. to Samuel and God putting a dream in our hearts. Beautiful post.

  9. says

    How do you do it, Laura? Not only do you inspire me as a writer, you inspire me as a parent. You manage, again and again, to get me really excited about crazy things, like those adolescent years. Yes, a post like this One and I’m ready.

    Always so thankful for your work. And your play.

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