Back in the early 1940s, a pre-teen named Mike decided to sneak out of his house and attend a parade against his parents’ wishes.
Now this was not good. In addition to disobeying his parents, he was supposed to be home watching his six-year old little brother.
Unfortunately, for Mike and his family, the story takes a tragic turn from here. While the twelve-year old enjoyed the parade, his little brother accidentally knocked their grandmother unconscious while sliding down a bannister.
Sadly, their grandmother would subsequently die from a heart attack largely unrelated to the accident. However, this wouldn’t stop the young Mike from associating his actions with his grandmother’s death.
Guilt-ridden and distraught–and unable to sleep for days–the troubled twelve-year old climbed the stairs of his two-story house and leapt from a bedroom window in an attempted suicide.
Thankfully, Michael made it through the episode without major injury and thankfully, for the rest of us, Michael survived, became a pastor like his father and–also like his father Michael Sr.–decided to adopt the name of a historic religious reformer… Martin.
Yes, the boy born Michael King Jr., became Martin Luther King Jr. and the rest, as they say is, indeed, history.
Today, of course, is the 45th anniversary of King’s assassination. I don’t want to focus on his death but, instead, I want to acknowledge how far he traveled from that suicidal boy to become the first U.S. citizen to have a national holiday named for him, quite the journey.
You see, while Dr. King was an American icon, he was also just a man and like the rest of us, he had many doubts and fears.
During some of the many dark days of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King was even known to have bouts with depression and, yes, he had to pick himself up and find the faith and motivation to keep moving.
I bring this up today to say that, as we commemorate the remarkable life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should acknowledge and celebrate his humanity as much as his legend.
In doing so, we can see that his brief life is a testament to how love, hope and faith can overcome insecurity, doubt and fear to transform one man, one troubled nation, and one needy world.
So today, on this 45th anniversary of his home-going, let’s celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. not for his iconic international status, but for his common humanity, a humanity that lets us know that we all can overcome doubt, insecurity and fear to make the impossible, possible.
I’ll leave you with these words from Dr. King:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”