Martin Luther King Jr. might have agreed with satirist Ogden Nash, who said, “Progress was all right once, but it went on too long.” The same might be said of unions, like the public-school bus drivers whose strike now has 150,000 students scrambling frantically to get to and from school. And King would worry that working parents rarely have relatives who are in a position to help, and that there’s often only one parent to do the scrambling. Plus, neighborliness is in short supply, and technology, if anything, has widened the gap between age groups.
Speaking of low-tech, King, who would have been 84 this month, would likely approve of my favorite Christmas card, which has Burl Ives singing the following neighborly advice from the “Holly Jolly Christmas” song: “And say hello to friends we know, and everyone we meet!” The great humanitarian leader would no doubt say “Amen!” to that, and also to my “everyone smiling” mission, because it’s good for our health and helping one another. His help is sorely needed in these uphill endeavors.
At the New Amsterdam Boys and Girls Choir concert on King’s birthday held at All Souls Unitarian Church, the song choices often reflect the dreams of this great American patriot and prophet. But today’s pop songs and entertainment often reflect something quite different, which might well have spurred King to remind us that “there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must, because our conscience says it is right.”
And surely reflecting King’s dream is how these young New Amsterdam singers will be helped get to and from school by this long-standing nonprofit organization, which also mentors and tutors the youngsters. It needs our support.
Next year, weather permitting, how fitting it would be if part of this concert were held outdoors on Park Avenue, where the illuminated Christmas trees and Chanukah bushes remain until after King’s birthday is celebrated. And just as this serenely beautiful row of trees and bushes is there to honor all who gave and are still giving their lives in this nation’s wars, so they now rightly pay tribute to this martyred civil rights leader. Thank you, Park Avenue Memorial Tree donors, for enabling this blessed New York City tradition.
But singing together is a year-round need, and future columns will note other grass-roots groups you can either join or support. Sometimes singing is better than talking, because no one is left out. We need to learn to talk, inclusively, about things that really matter. If ever a mission needed King’s help …
And he’d likely worry that the high-tech gadgets often take the place of the person-to-person, voice-to-voice communication people need most. And indeed, this anti-violence leader would consider that sometimes the lack of social interaction is among the risk factors to be overcome in the renewed war against awful crimes of violence. May they not be in vain and serve the cause of non-violence and justice as King’s wrongful death has done so magnificently.
And may it be strongly considered that the education we need most from childhood on is how to relate to one another—to do and say the just and helpful thing, including speaking the truth in love. And where kids, especially, will do more smiling, singing and talking than texting! It’s not an impossible dream!
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