MLK lessons still learned in Selma

Published 7:52pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

Every year on Martin Luther King Day my mother would always take me to visit our local Macedonia Baptist Church, just a few blocks away from our home. As a young child, I didn’t fully understand why my mother chose to take me there every year.

I knew who Martin Luther King Jr. was and what he did for the African American race, but I wasn’t quite sure why it was important that my family worship with this unknown congregation each year.

Their hymns and style of worship were much different than what I was used to. In my young mind, church was a serious place where I had to be extra quiet and make sure I followed all the rules. This church seemed to be more like a social gathering where everyone was excited to fill the sanctuary’s pews. While singing loudly they would clap their hands and stomp their feet. They shouted “Amen” during quiet spaces in prayer. To put it simply, they were different than me.

Selma, I have come to find, is a lot like that church. City and county commission meetings, traditionally serious gatherings, often serve as a time of prayer and fellowship. Church services that are meant to last one hour often linger into two. Strangers sometime wave and offer a smile as I drive past them. Much like that church, community is very important to Selma.

Selma is also a lot different than any place I’ve ever lived before. Having a Walmart that closes at midnight and struggling to find restaurants that are open on Sunday is something very foreign to me. When I first moved here, I wasn’t quite sure what I got myself into. However, as the weeks passed, I found myself growing fond of my new home. Layers began to peel back and I discovered that Selma was beginning to find a special place in my heart — it became home, even though it was different than what I was used to.

Now, looking back, I think that’s the lesson my mother was trying to teach me when she took me to that church every year. She was trying to show me that although these people are different than me, I can still find a place for them in my heart and learn a thing or two from them. And although they may sing and pray different than me, they’re intent is the same — spending time in worship.

Also, I believe that was the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King’s message. He preached understanding rather than ignorance and forming friendships rather than hate. And although I didn’t spend Martin Luther King Day at that church this year, I did spend it getting to know people who are different than me  — I spent in Selma.

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