Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 16, 2006
You only need a heart full of grace to serve
Two people's courageous actions changed the world
Light One Candle
"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."
I thought of those words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., when I heard of the death of Rosa Parks not so long ago. She was a quiet lady who worked as a seamstress in Montgomery, Ala.
Although she and her husband had been involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) for a number of years, it had mostly been studying the issues of worker's rights and racial equality. However her studying turned to activism on Dec. 1, 1955, when Mrs. Parks left work and boarded her regular bus for the ride home. As the bus got more crowded, she was told to give up her seat to a white person and she refused.
Rosa Parks said later that she was "tired" and not just from her long day as a seamstress, she was "tired" of the South's then-prevalent Jim Crow laws that made African-Americans less than equal. She understood that her defiance would result in her arrest, but she also knew she had to do what was right. In doing so, she helped to launch the history-changing civil rights protests.
One of those who responded to Rosa Parks' arrest was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the Rev. Martin Luther King. At a meeting of local clergy on how they would respond to Rosa Parks' arrest, a proposal was made that the black community boycott the city's buses. King was selected by the others as the leader of this early non-violent protest.
King, already known in the community for his passionate sermons, spoke out forcefully and often in the city about the need for the black community and all who supported them to stay off the buses. The boycott lasted for 382 days until, a year later, on Dec. 21, 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States declared laws segregating Montgomery's buses were illegal and that all who rode the buses should be allowed to do so as equals.
As a result of his leadership of the boycott, King was arrested, his home bombed and his life threatened. However, out of this boycott, the world heard from King and he became America's foremost civil rights leader, ultimately winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
It becomes an interesting question for discussion when we ask where the civil rights movement would have started if Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King had not chosen to make a difference.
ACTS OF COURAGE
There were signs in the 1950s African-American community that the centuries of frustration with segregation were going to be challenged and that change was coming, but it took individuals to make those changes happen, to really make the difference that would galvanize the actions of others.
Remember, change comes when people have the courage to make a difference. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King used the talents and courage God gave them to say "No more!" and to motivate others to join them in bringing justice to others. We have a long way to go, but progress will come if others use their talents to say "No more!" to injustice.
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