Why I Work on Martin's Birthday
by C. Mason Weaver
I worked hard during the Martin Luther King Holiday. I always try very hard to be busy on that day. Unlike other holidays, it is not the time for bar-b-ques and family picnics; it is a time for reflection and motivation.
I understand that the struggle of the civil rights era was out of love for the next generation. It was not a struggle for selfish greed. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his Ph.D. before the civil rights era; many black activists of the time were already successful businessmen and civic leaders. Their fight was for me - the next generation. They were determined that I would grow up in a country were the laws were equally distributed and color-blind.
True love is selfless, and is given without hope of gaining anything back in return. The Bible points out that there is no greater love than to give your life for a friend. Dr. King gave his life for Mason Weaver. That was simply an act of love.
We often confuse selfless love with selfish wants. Selfish want is the motivation for most sinful and illegal activities. We commit adultery, rob banks and steal to satisfy our selfish wants. Dr. King, to the contrary, understood that he risked his life to live selflessly so I may work and take care of my family. I work on his birthday, and teach my children to never forget the sacrifice.
I always work on Dr. King's birthday as a tribute to him. I understand that doors were opened by him and by others making it easier for me to have the career I now enjoy. I work on his birthday to recognize the sacrifice that he and others like him paid for my right to live and work as I please. We all owe such a debt to someone or to some generation.
On Dr. King's birthday this year, I spoke to patients at the Palm Springs Stroke Activity Center. Elderly victims of strokes are receiving free medical services there because of the philanthropic and volunteer spirit of the community. I spoke to them about the sacrifice of their generation and the debt we all owe them. They are the World War II generation. Their parents won World War I; they sacrificed through the Great Depression and they had to build and army to defend the world against fascism and hate.
That generation saw husbands leave wives for war, wives leave children for the factory and everyone living with food rationing and fear. That generation sacrificed millions for freedom. They defeated Germany and Japan, rebuilt Asia and Europe and established America as the defender of freedom. They did not stop there. They continued to the moon and raised the children who took down the Iron Curtain. The world that now breathes free air owes a debt to the World War II generation.
Many patients at the Center are now without visitors, and their friends have all died. Because they are isolated, I consider my annual visit a report to them. I am reporting on how their children are taking care of the world for which they sacrificed so much. That is why it has been a privilege to speak to them at the last two King Day celebrations. It is a service I do for no fee. (Don't tell them, but I would pay to speak there.)
The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday is really a celebration of American culture. America has a way of examining itself and making corrections in the direction it is traveling. As a nation, we are better off for it. Let us never forget the sacrifice of our parents. The best memorial to their gift is our sacrifice for the next generation.
(C. Mason Weaver is a member of the African-American leadership
network Project 21 and a radio talk show host, public speaker
and author of the book It's OK to Leave the Plantation. He can
be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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