His last sermon, on the evening before he was shot down outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered a conclusion that serves well as starting point for 2018. After declaring that America was sick in 1968, facing troubling times, King made this resolution:
Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school—be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.
Nothing would be more tragic than to turn back now, because we have seen the real possibility that, in the middle of this dark night of the American story, a Third Reconstruction is possible. “We made the world we are living in,” James Baldwin said, “and we have to make it over.” Imperfect though we are, we can do this work together in 2018 and move forward toward the more perfect union of our common creed.
Fifty years after Dr. King and many others launched a Poor People’s Campaign to demand a Marshall Plan for America’s poor, inequality in our nation has reached extremes we have not seen since the Gilded Age. As the Dow climbs and the wealthiest Americans get a massive tax break, 15 million more Americans are poor today than in 1968. In the same time period, the rate of extreme poverty has nearly doubled. Because of the systemic racism of voter suppression, which has been implemented in 23 of the nation’s poorest states since 2010, our political system is held captive by extremists who deny workers health care and a living wage, undermine the equal-protection clause of the constitution, attack public education, and encourage poor white people to blame people of color and immigrants for their problems. All the while, more and more of our collective resources are dedicated to a war without end.
-Rev. Dr. Barber
If you want a new paradigm, first you must become it.
“Is it the innate desire of people trying to simply reconnect, driven perhaps by hostile environments? Is it simply missing the ease with which we used to greet one another? Is it the reconvening of safe, casual boundaries that were blasted away through manufactured fear and hatred? Whatever it is, count me in. I am making the effort to engage in the ‘kindness movement’. Something we can all do. We can all be more present to what goes on around us. One of the most wonderful ways to do this is when we serve, when we can help satisfy another’s needs, when we bring the natural healing element of love to a wounded situation. We can do this.’
-Science of Mind
The world, with all of its challenges, can feel overwhelming sometimes, as it may be feeling for many of us right now. And we may wonder if we are ready to meet these challenges and if we can meet the doubt and fear that naturally arise within us. Perhaps our own freedom and the freedom of others is wrapped up in simply realizing that we were born for such a time as this.
-Rev. Masando Hiraoka, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Depersonalize the issue and act from understanding, not agreement. Speak up, not from anger but from compassion. Take action, not from vengeance but from love.
I yearn for the day when I can watch the news and be immune to the negative energy I feel around the perceived absurdity of the actions of the unskillful in our society. I want to instead simply recognize the lack of skill and take all action necessary to ensure no further harm with only one movivation: love. This our practice, and it is our call.
-Dr. Kenn Gordon, Kelowna, British Columbia
We must shock this nation with the power of love.
We must shock this nation with power of mercy.
We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all.
We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy.
Not now, not ever.
–Rev. Dr. William J. Barber
We must in our own nature see the necessary reason for every fact…see how it could most be.
What we reach for many be different, but what makes us reach is the same.
Imagine that each of us is a spoke in an Infinite Wheel, and, though each spoke is essential in keeping the Wheel whole, no two spokes are the same. The rim of that Wheel is our living sense of community, family, and relationship, but the common hub where all the spokes join is the one center where all souls meet.
So, as I move out into the world, I live out my uniqueness, but when I dare to look into my core I come upon the one common center where all lives begin. In that center, we are one and the same. In this way, we live out the paradox of being both inique and the same.
For mysteriously and powerfully, when I look deep enough into you, I find me, and when you dare to hear my fear in the recess of your heart, you recognize it as your secret that you thought no one else knew. And that unexpected wholeness that is more than each of us, but common to all–that moment of unity is the atom of Gaia.
True love is…to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help.