Relate With People By How They Are Not What They Look Like

“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.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

I was a student when Martin Luther King delivered that speech. I don’t know the degree to which this comment inspired me or if I was just always this way. I have always tried to treat people individually where they are. If they are poor or rich or powerful and they have more stuffing than a Christmas goose, I deal one way. Most people are just hard-working individuals trying to do their jobs. I don’t care if they are CEO or junior assistant account executive. They deserve to be treated with honesty and respect. And I try.

Today in the US is an official holiday observing the birth and work of Martin Luther King. It is good to remember the good he did, what he stood for.

The movement did some good. Laws were passed. Barriers were broken.

Today I believe that there is broader acceptance of people of varying skin colors, races, languages. Yet, still much work remains. Some prejudices are hard to overcome. They require a change of heart in each individual.

If you read the gospels carefully, you’ll see that Jesus was doing just that. He met with people of different ethnic groups at their level of need. He healed regardless of being Jewish or not. He was forever concerned with the status of one’s heart.

How do you change hearts? We have certain Christians who think that passing more laws will suffice. That didn’t work out so well in the end for the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

Unfortunately, you don’t change hearts with laws or with one magnificent speech. Ann Lamont wrote a wonderful little book Bird by Bird, where she tells the story of her brother. He procrastinated over writing a report on birds for school. Now it’s the night before it’s due. (Sound familiar?) He whines to his father about how he’ll ever get it done. “Just write bird by bird and you’ll get it done.”

Just like a good bread requires time to rise, so a changed heart requires time for the change to root and grow. And it happens one heart at a time.

Dr. King set out a vision. Much good did happen. But the hard work remains for each of us. What is the condition of our own heart? Where can we nurture another’s heart?

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