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January 27, 2015

How Much Do You Care?

martin_luther_king_jr“How do you explain to a little child why you have to go to jail? Coretta has developed an answer. She tells them that daddy has gone to jail to help the people.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

One night during the Montgomery bus boycott, Dr. King received a late phone call just as he was dozing off to sleep. All he heard on the other line was name-calling, threats to his family, and hateful speech. He got up, paced the floor, and eventually warmed a pot of coffee. There he confessed to God that he could not see himself continuing his fight. He felt “all of [his] fears coming down upon him”, and he just knew it was time to give up. With his head in his hands, he recalls suddenly feeling a divine presence like never before, as if God were sitting right next to him, promising that Dr. King was not alone in this fight, and he never would be.

A couple of nights later, when the threats of violence were made a reality and his house was bombed, crowds came forth with outrage, demanding immediate retaliation. Dr. King responded with a new-found calm, instructing the crowds to go home, be with their families, and further their cause the next day by continuing the nonviolent protests.

It is difficult to imagine the challenges of pursuing a calling that could lead to arrests, endanger one’s family, and eventually get you assassinated. It’s one thing to risk your financial future in order to start an organization that hopefully changes relationships throughout the world, but that is embarrassingly minor compared to Dr. King’s calling. It must mean that he either didn’t care about himself or his family, or just the opposite: he cared so much for them that he had to risk everything in order to make possible a different reality, a different future for himself, his family, and all of us.

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