Martin Luther King Day

Its January! And that traditionally means Resolutions and fresh starts! For me, it means miserable, cold weather. I’ve never really gotten into the resolution thing, and so I just hibernate in oversized sweatshirts and jeans and fuzzy socks and knit hats until March. March is when I start to care if my clothes actually match again.

But this January, I’ve decided to take part in the tradition *puts fuzzy socks on*

I’ve been working on Ekim’s Place for almost a year (what?!?!) and my focus is “shop local”. The theme “love your neighbor” comes up OFTEN in my research and planning. I’ve been thinking on this for my own life, because as the story goes, community starts with yourself. If you can’t love yourself, how will you love your community? Logic says, if I want to spread the message of #supportlocal, I first must dive into myself and learn to love all the bits of me. I started listening to how I talk to myself, and noticed that it is similar to how I talk to other people. Although my intentions are good, I can be pretty blunt/matter-of-fact/cold!

My first resolution is to start talking gentler to myself, and give myself a little more patience and understanding. During this process, I hope to simultaneously talk gentler to my neighbor, and be a little more patient and understanding with my neighbor. It seems like a simple thing, but it will go very far in developing my communication abilities. I want to keep getting better at communicating my good intentions to inspire others to do the same.

January is also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday month! This great man is revered around the world for his message of love. In honor of his birthday and to help me with my resolution of talking gentler, I dove into one of his most famous sermons and wanted to share it with you. The “Love your Enemies” sermon, was turned into a book called “Gift of Love”. I’ve read it several times now, and it is so full of truth that it is bursting. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you check it out. They even have a YouTube of him preaching the Love your Enemies sermon to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957.

It’s difficult to properly summarize, so I will be basic. Love your neighbor means love your neighbor. Your neighbor is any fellow man who is in need, regardless of race, gender, political affiliation, religion, or nationality.

But he doesn’t stop there. Dr. King goes deeper and preaches the command to love your enemies. What? Why? Why would I love someone who has wounded me? Because, as Dr. King so clearly explains, if you hit me, and I hit you, and you hit me, and I hit you, the hate just multiplies. He tells a story of driving down a highway with his brother, and none of the oncoming traffic were dimming their high beams. His brother finally grew angry and said the next time a car drove by, he wasn’t going to dim his lights either. Dr. King said, If you don’t, we will all wreck! Someone must have the sense to dim their lights!

If we don’t love our enemies, we will all wreck. Someone must have the sense to dim their hate.

Dr. King also told of a story about President Abraham Lincoln. When he was campaigning for president, there was a man named Stanton who would say bad things about Lincoln, his character, and even his appearance. Despite this, Lincoln won. When it came time to pick his Secretary of War, Lincoln chose none other than the man named Stanton. Lincoln’s inner circle and other newly appointed cabinet members quickly advised against it, asking if he had heard all the awful things he had said about him during the campaign. Lincoln replied that he had indeed heard the things he said, but after looking over the whole nation, Stanton was the best man for the job. When President Lincoln was assassinated a few years later, Stanton famously said, “Now he belongs to the ages,” and made a beautiful statement about his character and stature. Dr. King said, “If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would have not transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.”

These stories are so powerful to me because it is easy to let this world harden you. Day in and day out, people are rude to you, step on your feet, try and steal from you, and all around figuratively spit on you. It’s hard to ignore because it causes PAIN. However, we must focus on the love we receive. Day in and day out, people are kind to you, people let you go first, people try and give to you, and all-around love you, literally. Sometimes that is hard to see because the pain of hate can be blinding, like high beams on a highway. Shifting our focus on the love helps in numerous ways, because the fact of the matter is, as Dr. King continues to explain in his Love Your Enemies sermon, that hate not only cause others pain, but it causes the person giving hate pain, as well. The hate corrodes the mind and “beautiful things become ugly and ugly things become beautiful… the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.”

“It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.”

When someone cuts you off in traffic, choose to take a breath and see them as a person who needs love. Let the peace fall on you and feel the hate dissipate. Then imagine the flow of hate had you reacted in hate. The anger could have caused a wreck at the worst, honking and name calling at the least. The least of these have the potential to bleed into the day with both participants. The other driver might not have seen you when he cut you off and only knows you were being a bully, honking and carrying on towards him. This puts him in a bad mood, where he is rude to the next person he comes across. Simultaneously, you are mad and go to your destination and are short with the next person you come across. That person then feels pain and wants to inflict that harshness to the next person they see. And on and on it goes. At the end of the day your heart is tense and in pain.

Imagine on the other hand, you let the peace fall on you and the driver did notice they cut you off. He sees your peaceful reaction and that peace falls on him, too. He is kind to the next person he comes across. Your peace continues with you to your destination, and you are kind to the next person you see. That person feels your warmth and they can’t help but take it in and smile to the next person they see. And on and on it goes. At the end of the day your heart is light and satisfied.

One of Dr. King’s most famous quotes comes from this Love your Enemies sermon I am discussing with you: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

*Side Note - Probably Dr. King’s most famous speech, “I have a Dream” also resonates with my focus. Dreams are inside all of us, and it takes great courage to speak them out loud, much less act on them. Dr. King’s dream of his children playing alongside white children was such a basic request. At the time, though, he was risking his life by even thinking about his dream. It took great courage for him to say his dream out loud, for millions, now billions, of people to hear. Dr. King had a way of humanizing all of us, getting on the basic level with us to explain that basic needs were not being met for a VAST amount of people. He talked to the masses across race, gender, religion, and nationality in a way that all these different types of people could hear and understand. There is much work to be done but I hope more people can hear his sermons and listen to the message, because it is a blueprint of how easy it is if we just dim our high beams for a minute and see.*

To wrap it up, my resolutions for 2022 is to talk gentler to myself, be more patient, and learn to love my enemy. When someone steps on my foot, I hope to remember that hate multiplies hate. Although this is hard in the “real” world, Dr. King reminds us that it takes a strong person to forgive a transgression. Forgiveness isn’t a weakness or a submission, but a strength and a resistance to hate.

This is the only way I can fulfill my mission of supporting our local entrepreneurs, spurring on their big, BRAVE dreams, and encouraging their sometimes weary, but always passionate hearts.  

Cheers to 2022! I wish you, your family, and your neighbors lots of love this year! We will continue spreading the message of Shop Local and supporting all our Lakeland business owners! Tell us how you can support and love your neighbor this year!

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