My son came home the other day, so proud to show off the facts he learned at school. “Do you know how old Martin Luther King, Jr. was when he died?” he asked. I didn’t know. “He was 39 years old,” he declared proudly.
39 years old. That’s not much older than I am now.
I can’t even fathom accomplishing as much as Martin Luther King did in the time he was given here on earth. I know I certainly haven’t yet. Not even close. As I sit and feel the pang of self-pity, feeling sad that my life is hardly as important or meaningful, I am struck by something. Martin Luther King was incredibly brave. He stood up and stood out at a very dangerous time. And yet, he stood up anyway.
I wonder if I can be so brave. I get overwhelmed by the thought of having to fight every battle and take on every injustice. The problems are just so many and it’s all so big. As I try to become more aware of politics and rub shoulders with others who are actively engaged in the political sphere, I’m often left feeling more guilty or even criticized that I am not as amazing as everyone else. Those oppressive feelings get overwhelming and tend to push me back down. Whatever I do will likely not be enough for somebody. And so why try? Why open myself up to criticism? Why give fuel to my already healthy self-doubt?
And then I came across this quote from Dr. King.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.-MLK
Dr. King let his light shine. It was an incredibly bright light, mind you, so that helps. But was it always so bright? Did he ever doubt himself? I can imagine he was at least a little bit scared.
Well, I can at least shine a little bit. I don’t have to be as big or as bright as other people. I don’t have to take on all of the same things or care about everything and everyone. The whole of the world’s problems don’t have to rest on my shoulders. But I can still shine.
I can provide a safe space for others to vocalize their political thoughts as they bud and slowly bloom. I can be supportive and encouraging to those around me who doubt themselves. I can show others that they really do have a lot to offer. We all have a light that can shine in dark places and illuminate the world with a bright, happy light.
I need to recognize the light within myself… and let it shine.