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The Immeasurable Distance Between Us
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I wrote last October about the wisdom the Nobel committee displayed in their selection of three women as recipients of the most recent Peace Prize. One of the three, Leymah Gbowee, carries particular interest for me due to our mutual connection to Eastern Mennonite University. She earned a Masters degree there. I’ve taken several of the same courses she did, and EMU houses the group of which I’m part: Coming to the Table. I encourage my friends, colleagues, and readers to take the time to get to know more about this remarkable woman. Read the rest of this entry »
In addition to publishing my books, Beacon Press gives me the opportunity to discuss important issues on their wonderful blog Beacon Broadside. Today (April 4) I was asked to write an essay in connection with the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One year ago today I stood mere feet from the site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I was participating in the annual White Privilege Conference and wrote about it here. Today, Easter Sunday 2010, is the 42nd anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
Today is also the 43rd anniversary of the day on which Dr. King offered one of his most powerful sermons at Riverside Church in New York City. Though his most famous speech is clearly “I Have A Dream,” if you want to understand more clearly what Dr. King stood for, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” is an important place to begin.
I took the time today to read this powerful sermon and encourage you to take that time as well (both an audio and a written transcript are available at the American Rhetoric website). The parallels between 1967 and what is happening in our nation and around the world today are many.
The wisdom of Dr. King’s warnings about America’s future if we did not change our ways continue to ring true. A successful revolution that ushers in truth, justice, mercy, and peace for all people will not involve weapons and war…
These words from a baptist preacher 43 years ago today echo the message of the man from Galilee 2,000 years ago whose resurrection Christians around the world celebrate today.
Isn’t it time we actually listened? Isn’t it time we did more than talk about our ideals and actually lived up to them? What would Jesus do? What would Martin do? What will you do?
I had never heard of “Flat Stanley” when my lifelong friend Mike Godfrey wrote and asked if his son could send me his “Flat Justin” to spend some time with me. Mike and I grew up together because our parents were best friends. We went on vacations together and our families jointly owned a cabin in the mountains. We had some serious snowball fights over the years. I’m not sure there is anyone I spent more time with growing up than Mike until I moved to Oregon to attend college almost 40 years ago. I was honored that JJ chose me to send Flat Justin to.
As I understand it the Flat Stanley Project is an international literacy and community building project where elementary school students create a Stanley character that can be mailed in an envelope. Students from one school would mail their flat characters to students from a school in another part of the country (or the world) and those students create a journal that tells about where Flat Stanley is visiting.
So, variation on this theme, Mike’s son JJ sent his Flat Justin to me and I was to create a journal with pictures of Flat Justin in various places in and around our Central Oregon home/community. Well, Flat Justin learned about our home town all right, but my life takes me to many places around the country so I took Flat Justin with me to Alabama last week where I spoke at three different colleges in Birmingham and Mobile. I don’t know if JJ expected to learn about Birmingham in addition to Bend, but he’s going to nonetheless. I spent most of a day last week touring sites that were significant to the history of the Civil Rights movement and I hope that JJ, his classmates, his teacher, and even my buddy his father, are inspired to search more deeply into our nation’s history than is often the case; that JJ will know more than I did at his age about truth, justice, and equality and just how hard they are to achieve and maintain in our sometimes-not-so United States. (For anyone interested in seeing more photos than are included here, I’ve loaded quite a few onto my Facebook page).
After giving Flat Justin a tour of Central Oregon, here’s what I wrote to JJ:
There is a lot I didn’t go into with JJ. I hope this introduction will peak his interest and that he’ll explore more on his own and with his dad’s help. For instance, 45 years ago this past weekend, March 7, was Bloody Sunday, when hundreds of Civil Rights marchers attempted to walk from Selma to Montgomery and were brutally attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas. It is a challenge to figure out how to tell our children the truth about American history. Some of it is horrific beyond words.
But this is our work if we want to leave our descendants a more just and peaceful world than the one we inherited, and the one we currently live in. I look forward to hearing back from JJ once he has a chance to read my journal of Flat Justin’s travels to Oregon and Alabama.
JJ, there are many more places to go…