Art in Action: How to MLK Your Day ~ 6 Quotes to Embody

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Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

Martin Luther King, Jr. lived an extraordinary life. He was, of course, a great teacher, preacher, leader, activist. But he was also a man. As we honor his life and his legacy of love, I often feel intimidated by all he did and the lasting positive impact of his work. I think, “I could never do that.”

For this week’s Art in Action, let’s follow six quotes from Dr. King and remember that we can all make a positive difference if we act in the name of love. Even small acts of love ripple out – from ourselves, to our lives, our communities, and ultimately our world.

1. “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Yourself –
Two or three times today, ask how you can offer yourself service. Treat yourself like a friend. Do yourself a kindness. Make yourself a cup of soup. Take a break from your screen in the middle of the day to stretch. Read that article you want to read.

Others – Look at a chore or an aspect of your job that feels like an annoyance, a drag or even a dread. Can you see that chore as service? Reframe the work in terms of who you are helping and the gift you are offering by doing it.

2. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Yourself – If something matters to you, say something. Especially if you tend to let others’ needs come before your own, make a point of speaking up for yourself. You don’t have to be all bossy pants about it, but if it matters, say so.

Others – Pay particular kindness to someone with less power than you (perhaps a child, an elderly person, an immigrant or a waiter/cashier). See them, thank them, help them, if you can. And if you notice that someone with less power than you is being mistreated — in a small or big way — stand up for them. Staying silent is complicity.

3. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

Yourself – We all make choices that run against our intentions, goals and even our best interests. Instead of seeing yourself as your own worst enemy, see if you can look at those choices with love. What need is at the heart of the “enemy” choice? Is the choice for more cookies actually a need for comfort? Is the procrastination around a difficult work project actually a need for freedom? Is the frustration with a child or partner a need for clear communication? Make friends with the need at the root of the “enemy” choices by approaching them with love.

Others – Seek out someone who disagrees with you…and treat them with love. Suspend your judgment and hear them out. Listen carefully to what they are saying and to what is at the root of their position. Have a conversation with someone on the other side of a political position, participate in an online discussion of something you care about, read a news source that you don’t usually read. Be as open and kind to the other side as you can. You may learn something about them and about yourself that you didn’t know before. (For more on this, check out this great piece, “The ‘Other Side’ is not Dumb.”)

4, 5, 6. (The Love/Hate Triumvirate)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

I used to date a man whose friends joked that he “hated everything.” He hated certain football teams. He hated bar soap. He hated squash. He hated people who had more money than he did. He hated it when Christmas was over. He definitely hated a truckload of politicians. After a while, all that hate was tough to be around. For me, his hate was too great a burden to bear.

Notice if you find yourself bristling at or hating something. Whatever it is, experiment with loving it instead. Hate your knees because they hurt when you go down stairs? See how they feel when you love them for getting you around the best they can. Hate traffic that snarls your morning commute? See how it feels to love the luxury of having a car and living in a thriving community. Hate the politicians on the other side? See how it feels to love them for doing their best – and get behind those who are motivated by love. They are the ones who will lead us to freedom.

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FUN NEWS: elephant journal picked up two of my essays! As an aspiring writer, I’m delighted to share my work with more people, so I would love it if you would check them out by clicking here and here and if you think they would be of benefit, please share them! I am grateful for your help in spreading the word!

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