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What Vision engaged MLK?

by | Jan 17, 2022 | engage, Martin Luther King Jr, Vision

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On this MLK day, let’s engage the next phase of leading into a New Year. After Goals, and PERFECT, let’s consider Vision

As life begins, what Vision is yours vs. others?

Standing in front of my 4th-grade class, I was wearing what we now would romantically call a Toga. It was more like a big white sheet wrapped around my small body which was not much to look at. And, I was stammering as I tried my best to engage in showing how a similarly clad frail man changed the world with his demonstration of non-violence in a far-off country – India. Now both are common knowledge, but in Dallas, in the 1960s it was very different than others had dressed up as their “role model”.

Micheal King Sr. was born to sharecroppers in rural Georgia, eventually walking to Atlanta as a young teenager to attend high school. He then enrolled at Morehouse College, a Historically Black College and University, and studied Theology. He met the daughter of the Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, whom he married, and became the assistant Pastor there in the ’20s. They lived upstairs from his boss and mother-in-law ;-)… and that is where Michael King Jr. was born in 1929. Shortly after his birth, the senior Pastor passed away, and King Sr. stepped into leading the church.

What engages Vision?

He would in time raise the attendance from six hundred to several thousand. In 1934, the church sent King Sr. on a multinational trip to Rome, Tunisia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, then Berlin for the meeting of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) The trip also included visits to sites in Germany associated with the Reformation leader, Martin Luther. While there, King Sr. witnessed the rise of Nazism. In reaction, the BWA conference issued a resolution that stated, “This Congress deplores and condemns as a violation of the law of God the Heavenly Father, all racial animosity, and every form of oppression or unfair discrimination toward the Jews, toward coloured people, or toward subject races in any part of the world.” Motivated to really engage, he returned home to Atlanta, and in August 1934,  changed HIS name to Martin Luther King, and his 5-year-old son’s to Martin Luther King Jr.

The Vision to engage differently is complicated…

Touching lightly on this last week, the Designing Your Life material helps people discover/rediscover where they want to go… next. It is not something that most do once, and are finished. 75% of us will eventually be doing something different than our original Vision of we started out studying or even our first few jobs. And what makes this even harder, is what is “normal” will engage you the easiest. 80% of us will follow the career paths of our parents, particularly if they have been successful or at least appear content. And also note that few parents in their 30’s and 40’s actually know what either of those are, and kids in their formative years don’t know what to look for.

Like King, my Father’s career seemed straightforward enough. In fact, as early as Junior High, we worked together building computers, writing programs in the basement, and generally designing and building things together. I was always the “assistant” and learned quickly what to anticipate was needed next, and have that ready. We also as a family embraced Church as a central part of our lives, and watch as he and Mom built our days and weeks into that – warts and all. I was exposed to hypocrisy and genuine believers… and understood how to discern quickly what was different between the two..

Vision – what engages you now?

As I started to research MLK, there are so many rich and complex stories to engage us. What drove him, from the earliest days, to be the amazing leader he became? I knew that music was central to the Civil Rights movement, but didn’t realize how deep it was embedded into his story. He was active in piano and violin as a young boy, and also active in vocal choirs. In fact, he dressed up as a slave to sing in a chorus for the opening of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta at the age of 10. How about that for an early Vision? The foundation was being built to build on…

… what is the foundation beneath your Vision?  Can it help move us all forward into a world that desperately needs leaders who can not only set a direction, but one that can engage us together? It is possible, and today reminds us of the small steps we need to engage in – each of us. Not the proverbial “they” – YOU and ME. Normally comfortable singing in the Choir, MLK once ended up singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow” as an unintentional solo and had to overcome “real stage fright” as he sang the whole song by himself. It probably wasn’t as pretty as this, but the sentiment was the same for the start of this week. A reminder that Vision engages often with the smallest thing – His Eye is On the Sparrow.

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