Sliding on his new glasses, Alden was amazed how clear the world actually was. He’d never known things to be anything other than fuzzy and more than a little confusing. It felt good to be able to see, but now Christmas vacation was over.
The very idea of returning to his second grade classroom in his new frames left him anxious and edgy. He hated getting teased, and somehow it was always he who was in trouble when he lashed out. He half-heartedly lobbied for one more day at home to postpone the inevitable torment, but his mom and dad were having none of it. “Besides,” they said, “you look great.”
Dragging his feet down the second grade hall, half-hiding behind his dad, Alden could see his classroom door. Out of it hopped Diego, with his stout body tucked into an oddly mismatched outfit. Diego grinned wide when he saw Alden.
“Wow, Alden,” crowed Diego, “What cool glasses! Those look awesome! Hey everybody, check out Alden’s cool glasses!”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Half way through a 90-minute hot yoga class, things can feel pretty bleak there on my sweaty little mat. The humidity feels like a sopping hot blanket on my skin and in my nose. Even if the hot room if is full of yogis practicing with me, I sometimes feel alone.
Resting on my belly, I deepen my breath to slow my heart. My towel smells sharp of my own body’s ammonia. With my face turned to one side, I can actually watch a drip of sweat slide down my nose and vibrate there as I exhale.
“Can I do this today?” I wonder. “Do I have it in me?”
As we return to this tummy-down position between the poses, I feel Lizzie (or Sara or Amy or Julia or on my birthday, Severine and on one heavenly occasion, Kirk) walk to the back of my mat. She gently taps the bottoms of my feet with hers, and then smoothly and firmly spends 20 seconds walking on my feet.
20 blissful seconds.
I could weep with gratitude. It feels good physically: an island of pleasure in the midst of this challenging experience. But more than that, I feel supported, acknowledged, cared for. Lizzie’s foot walking says, I’m here with you, we’re in this together, it’s okay. Sweating in the hot room with no one saying a word, I feel loved
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s life and work were acts of love – even in the face of bitter hatred and legal discrimination. In both his words and in his actions, over and over, he and his courageous supporters chose love over hate.
If you have it in you to lead a movement, if you have the courage and the vision to step forward and show us the way, please, by all means, do it. But don’t think for one second that leading a national non-violent protest is the only way to change the world. Each of us has enormous power to change everything with acts of love.
How many times have you thought something positive about someone but didn’t say it? Your words, like Diego’s, have the power to turn a moment from one of fear and apprehension to one of love and belonging. Your actions, too, can serve to connect and support rather than separate. A smile, a kind look, or a touch on the shoulder (or on the feet!), can make a positive difference that reverberates out further than you can imagine.
We never know the burden that others are carrying, but rest assured that they are carrying something. Choose words and acts of love to ease it. And while you’re at it, speak kindly and act kindly to your very own self. You deserve your love as much as anyone.
Happy MLK Day, everybody.