Ellie is our performer. Honestly, both girls can put on a performance with the right motivation, but it’s Ellie who fancies the spotlight. A life on the stage. No hesitation to give it all she’s got. Ever.

A few days ago, after an event when someone else performed, Ellie was doing a bit of analysis. Andrea and I were encouraging her to remember to speak positively and generously about the efforts of her friends, and it warms my heart that Ellie generally takes those thoughts on board.

It’s a good resolution to be disciplined about speaking well of others.

I need to be disciplined about many things. Shall I make you a list? Or ask Andrea to provide the list? But this being January, at the top of the list of disciplined resolutions is, “Be like Martin.”

We’ve just observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in honor of his birthday, and on April 4, we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, in his peaceful pursuit of justice and racial equality. I lived in Memphis for a few years before moving to Boston. It’s an amazing city, and I left amazing friends there. It was a deep experience to live for a time in a place so iconic to the civil rights movement in the US. Nine months before my arrival in this world, Dr. King was already leaving his mark, and Time magazine honored him as the first African American “Man of the Year.”

He had been to Ghana a few years before that and witnessed its transition from Gold Coast, a colony under British rule that had been exploited for centuries including for slave trade, to Ghana, a free sovereign nation. At midnight on an evening in March 1957, the Union Jack came down, and the flag of Ghana went up for the first time.

Preaching about that experience at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, King said, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” Freedom comes, he said, through persistent agitation. It’s a hard road full of setbacks. But we must “fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace.” To King, the old flag coming down and the new flag going up symbolized that an older order was passing away and a new order coming into being.

In this fiftieth year since Dr. King’s passing, we remember all the more that we struggle for freedom together. One of the most popular of his quotes, and one that inspires me personally, is, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” I love that idea. And I have a colleague who says, “We’re in the same boat, so grab an oar.”

That’s a resolution we can all share as we’re coming to terms with the challenges of the new year. Recognize we’re all in the same boat. And grab an oar. In this year when we honor both Dr. King’s birth and his death, let us also honor his legacy by committing ourselves to progress and a new order despite the setbacks that occur.
Grab an oar. Be like Martin.