This idea of LEGACY, keeps circling back to me. It was on my mind during the 3-day weekend celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it kept bumping around in my thoughts during the recent Presidential Inauguration and the Women’s March the day after.
Have you ever thought of the legacy you’re leaving behind? I don’t think many of us do. I wonder if great political leaders think on this? Did Martin Luther King, Jr. realize the legacy he left us? I suppose he thought his dream of racial equality would endure, but I wonder what he would think about the redemption of his suffering almost 50 years after his death?
Years ago I had the opportunity to visit his burial site. A stately marble coffin sits dramatically amid a calm reflection pond at his Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. His headstone marked with: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, I’m Free at Last. Powerful words he used in one of his famous speeches, but many people do not know that those words are lyrics from an old Negro Spiritual. I think much of the world has forgotten he was a Christian Pastor and his civil rights movement was motivated by Christian love, all part of his legacy to us.
His story is marked with a strong commitment to non-violence amid horribly violent acts, that ultimately resulted in his murder. As I reflect on his story, some parts are too difficult to imagine. Those close to him felt he knew he wouldn’t live long. I cannot imagine the inner turmoil he must have struggled with.
We all have difficult parts of our story that can inspire others, perhaps not as dramatic as Dr. King’s, but still important. If our stories aren’t shared, the lessons aren’t shared. We must be able to see how our stories plays-out in the larger story of “us.” A big part of this, is knowing yourself, knowing the role you’re playing; the good, the bad and the ugly. What is the story of your life? What is the legacy you’re leaving behind? What struggles have you overcome? What commitments have you made? Have you fought for what is important to you?
If this sparks your imagination, I want to suggest a few books that I have found helpful in my own journey to knowing myself better and telling my story.
The first book, written by Vinita Hampton Wright is The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life Designed as a type of creative devotional for writers, the reader is taken to new places of self-discovery and ultimately, God-discovery. Each chapter concludes with “Exercises for a Writer’s Formation.” I found it challenging and well written.
The other book was assigned to me in grad school. Although required reading, I found it helpful as I unraveled some of my childhood assumptions about myself. I suppose that was the professor’s goal. Reclaiming Your Story: Family History and Spiritual Growth by Merle L. Jordan, examines and then skillfully breaks down the tension between the authority of one’s family structure, and Divine authority. There are thoughts for contemplation included in each section. The final chapter entitled, “Renewing Your Spirit by Reauthoring your Childhood Story” maps out an exhaustive list of quasi-therapeutic writing projects.
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Our stories are the seeds of inspiration for others. I’d love to hear your thoughts and encourage you to tell your story, your legacy. Leave a comment below, or message me on Facebook.
Here is a collection of Dr. King’s thoughts, in his own words, a beautiful little gem that I’ve had on my bookshelf for over 35 years: The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Second Edition by King, Martin Luther, III, King, Coretta Scott