A Gift From A Stranger-Observance Of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

A Gift From A Stranger by Kyle Leach

Today our nation honors a person who helped to shape the best parts of who I am. We celebrate the way of life he left behind, which was based on principles of inclusion, justice, equality, and peace. By the time I was born Martin Luther King, Jr. had been gone for nearly three years, but the essence of his work and his love of humanity still lived and thrived in the hearts and minds of a generation. His passion and love were filtering into many areas of our society by the time I actually knew who he was, or how and why he had been killed. 

It says a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr., that he was able to profoundly influence me in ways that few people ever have. My memories of his physicality are shaped from nothing more than archive footage and photos, but his words and the ideas he held dear were what made him feel like a man who had mentored me as a child. I've never really felt like he was larger than life, a distant iconic figure; I've always felt like he was a trusted elder who constantly gave me sage advice and solace, in a world where it is was hard to find either. I felt like he showed me a path I needed to follow, a destination I needed to get to, and gave me everything I needed to be successful on the journey.

He believed that we could be so much more than we are. He saw all the potential that humanity holds and he let that fuel his efforts. He saw that our potential outweighs our current tortured, selfish nature, our twisted,  often cruel inhumanity. I think he  knew that in order for humanity to move forward, it would have to learn to deal with itself, and alter and heal all of its' many fractured, conflicted parts. I am certain of one thing. He wanted us to try. He was willing to risk his life to try. I feel like I can't disappoint him.

He changed me and we never had the chance to meet. I think I always feel he is with me because he is the one that made me really think about being better than myself and helping others be better than themselves. That is a pearl of wisdom that fuses to a person's core and helps them change who they are for all of their life. Better yet it changes them at such a fundamental level that they then feel the call to help others be free. That is his true legacy, his true gift to humanity in my mind and it one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.

The King Center


The National Civil Rights Museum

The Birth Home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.