Yes, it’s once again Martin Luther King Day. It also happens to be my middle daughter Charissa’s birthday. I often call her “CJ.” Today I’ve been thinking about the two of them. From the outside looking in there doesn’t seem to be much similarity. But the two of them are interconnected in ways that I believe honor the hope and vision of each.
CJ is a lily-white girl (okay, she’s 28 years old today and a woman, but, hey, I’m her Dad) who gets a sunburn from just thinking about sunshine. She’s clearly got my Northern European stock. CJ is also a teacher, and a darned good one. I admit my chest swells a bit thinking about the kind of impact she has in her school. She’s not famous in the world. But, she’s famous to me. I’m a big fan.
Dr. King was an African-American preacher who left his indelible print on our nation. His courage and agitation for a better world is encapsulated in his picking up the vision of the Old Testament prophet Amos – to see justice roll down for all people. His “I Have a Dream” speech resonates deeply with me and for many people not only in this nation but around the world.
Only from the outside looking in do these two people look so dissimilar. Yet, a closer inspection reveals a connection worth noting. You see, CJ teaches in an inner-city school. Only the outsider would look at this as a white teacher in a black school. But in the school, CJ is just a teacher and the students just students. This is exactly where CJ wants to be – her dream job is not in the suburbs – it’s right where she is.
I can’t help but think today about the fact that this is just what Dr. King envisioned: White and black together, not distinguished by their color but viewing one another by the content of their character. CJ is not shaping and forming African-American children near as much as she is teaching and building into the lives of precious people created in the image and likeness of God, just like her. These students love her, not because they aspire to be white or see her that way, but because she loves them and is faithful to do whatever she can to further their education.
So, today is a celebration. For me, it’s a celebration of seeing two people, from very different backgrounds, from different generations, and from different cultures meet in a similar vision that is being realized each day in a non-descript school in Midwest America. And it is this kind of current reality that transcends politics and religion and is the real hope for a new day for all Americans.