"What do you mean?" I asked him as he mindlessly flicked the smoldering butt away and reached for a fresh one.
"Well, you say try to do good, try to make a difference. But there's too many problems in the world to solve. There's too big of a gap between poor folk and rich folk. There's too many people sleepin' on the street goin' hungry and nobody gives a *blank* because there's not *blank* we can do about it. If we were super rich or crazy famous then maybe we could start feeding kids in Cambodia or where the *blank* ever. But just regular Joe's like you n me? We can't make any kinda difference in this craphole world so why even try?"
I thought about his words for moment before responding. I let silence hang in the air, the pause pregnant and heavy with his despair. Finally I said to him "You're right, there's no point trying to fix the world. That's too big, one man can't bear the weight of the entire world. You can't control others and the way that they behave. But you can look to your own sphere of influence. You can look at the people around you and ask 'Is there any need that I can meet right now that makes a bad situation better?' Make things better as best you can and hopefully inspire others to do the same."
He looked at me for awhile and said "You're right. We can't expect the world to be a more positive place if we do nothing but make it more negative."
They were facing down injustice on a grand scale. They faced hatred and looked the evils of bigotry in the eye. What amazes me about Dr. King's legacy is that he called people to return hatred and injustice with love.
He could have said these problems are far too big to ever change, so what's the point? Instead he attacked hatred with love. Which is exactly what Christ has called each and everyone one of us to do. Christ said of his followers that we would be known by our love.
He looked at people that were denying his people rights, even attacking and killing them. He said people that were treating others as less than human and noticed that in doing so they were losing their own humanity. He was trying to save the racist white people from themselves as well as gain social equality for his own.
Things aren't perfect now, but I was talking to one of my friends yesterday about the march on Washington. He told me he was trying to explain it to his children and they couldn't understand it. The idea of segregation didn't make sense to them. It's a beautiful story that proves that children are born to love and not hate, and I never would have heard it if not for Dr. King because my friend is black and I am white. Because of the sacrifice of Dr. King and his peers my life is richer, my humanity more intact.
How do we respond to great sacrifice like that? We try to make the world a better place.
How is that possible when the evil is so great? We start with what's in front of us.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.