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King handled his life with respect, grace

February 07, 2011|By THE REV. VALERIE WILLS

We draw into this time of peace and nonviolence as a people who treasure the concept of handling life with respect and grace.

Many have written about the strength of the oratory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and about the power of his words and thoughts. He was a dynamic leader and a man of exceptional charisma. His ideas and understandings of the status of racism in the 1960s were deep and penetrating. They won a nation over from its reliance on segregation as a solution to the racial disharmony it was experiencing. He brought his country to a position where all could better claim the nature of humanity in its functioning.

At a time when it was unusual to see an African-American and a white American in public together, King invited all people to come together in peace and respect. He taught them to show by their presence together their hope for solution to the racial discord this nation was experiencing.

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King motivated his African-American friends, parishioners and colleagues to stand with him in peaceful protest. He also motivated his white supporters in peaceful solidarity with his beliefs. By bringing together blacks and whites, he showed the hope of peaceful collaboration. And though he was often met with hatred and disdain, he managed to return love and nonviolent acceptance.

We are beyond that initial step. But we are still dealing with a heritage of separation and distrust. It is up to us to take the next steps by treating all people (lifelong members of American society, immigrants to this country and people of all colors) with decency and appreciation.

This means recognizing each other with respect when we meet on the street; going places and exploring situations when we are in the minority; speaking to each other when we are at a concert or a political lecture; and daring to stretch our hands across the racial divide. Until we can touch each other physically and emotionally, we still have work to do.

We wish to meet life's challenges with dignity and grace. One of the best lessons we can learn from the legacy of King is the legacy of grace.

King preached peace and nonviolence. He lived out his life in grace. His connections with people always honored their humanity. That is what we might learn to do through following his example. He was accepting of others without ever sacrificing his dignity. He taught us to accept and respect others through the lens of our own worth and value.

In this season of peace and nonviolence, may we remember his spirit and recommit ourselves to leading more open and accepting lives.

The Rev. Valerie Wills is minister of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown and secretary of the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County.

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