Monday, January 19, 2015

In Praise of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, I'd like to post a recap from a previous post.  It's a story that I think bears repeating.  The best stories, after all, are told again and again.  I get goose bumps each time I read this and think about my experience of actually being able to hear Dr. King preach.

I know this post will date me... a lot... but I need to share it.  In honor of MLK today, I want to share a real experience I had as a very young girl... very, very, very young, of course.

My father was in a horrible car accident when I was about 5 years old.  He was a very successful salesman for an electrical equipment company and was on the road a lot.  (He always brought home presents for my sister and me.)  On one road trip, a truck driver was not driving well and my dad ended up being forced off the road and into a ditch... with a huge culvert in it.  His head went through the windshield, he was crushed into the steering wheel and no one thought he would live until help could come.  He was pinned against the steering wheel because of all the equipment in the back of his station wagon that had lurched forward in the crash.  A stranger stopped and stayed with him, talking calmly to comfort him until help could get there.  A part of the conversation was about being saved and truly knowing God.  My dad was a Christian and we went to church every Sunday, but this was a life-changing moment for him and he ended up being called by God to leave his successful job behind and go into the ministry.  He'd had to drop out of college (studying to be a doctor) because of lack of funds with only 1 1/2 years to go.  His father had died when he was 12 and his mother had 4 young children to support.  How amazing that he could get that far on his own.

So, back to the story, he enrolled at Millikin University to complete the rest of his undergrad work and our family started off on a new journey.  We lived in many small towns in Central Illinois while he completed his studies and worked at student appointments.  When it came time for him to enroll in Seminary, he applied to 4 or 5 Seminaries around the country.  He thought that he would take his family to a new part of the country for many new experiences we wouldn't otherwise have, based on where he was accepted.  He was accepted at ALL of them, so no help there with his decision.  After many prayers and discussions with my mother, they decided to pack up and move to the East Coast while he attended Drew Theological Seminary.

We lived in New York state for a year, northern New Jersey for 3 years and southern New Jersey for a year.  We loved it all!  In New York state, we explored as much of the area as we could and loved the beautiful mountains.  In the winter, our St. Bernard just walked over the fence because the snow was so deep.  In northern New Jersey, we lived in dairy farm country.  It was gorgeous and the people were beautiful.  I was able to pursue my music lessons (organ) with many talented teachers, most of whom donated their services (and all the music books I wanted) for free, in honor of my father's service to our church.  I still feel like a huge part of my heart is there.  We were just an hour away from New York City and a retired Metropolitan Opera singer gave my mother free voice lessons because she recognized what a beautiful voice she had when she sang in our church choir.  In southern New Jersey, we lived in Pleasantville (not at all like the movie) and were just 6 miles from Atlantic City.  I took organ lessons in Ocean City.  We went to the beach every day that we could.  I had never seen the ocean until we moved to New Jersey.

The year I graduated from high school, my sister graduated from junior high and my dad graduated from Drew Theological Seminary.  What a year!  After that, we packed up and came back to Illinois because he was technically still a member of the Central Illinois Conference (United Methodist Church) and because I was going to attend Millikin University.

So, what does all this have to do with MLK, you ask?  Well, it gives the background and setting for the story.  One day, my father decided to take us on a trip to New York City.  He wanted us to have the experience of attending Christ Methodist Church, a huge and beautiful church there.  I don't think he even knew ahead of time who would be speaking that day and he certainly did not know the pastor there.  He just thought it would be a fun trip.  As it turns out, their pastor was not speaking that day.  They had a guest preacher for the day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Can you believe it?  I actually got to hear him preach.  I was young, but I listened and I was captivated by his wonderful message.  He spoke of hope, faith, kindness, and living a life with God.  It was amazing.  I didn't realize then how famous he was to become or how his life would end way too soon.  I knew I was in the presence of greatness and goodness.  It left quite an impression on me.  I thank God that I had this opportunity and hope that we can continue to keep his words alive.  They are good ones. 

Thanks for letting me share and I hope my story may have inspired you in some way.  God bless.

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