Rep. John Lewis (second from right), with activist Roy Wilkins of the NAACP (left), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and labor leader A. Philip Randolph
Rep. John Lewis (second from right), with activist Roy Wilkins of the NAACP (left), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and labor leader A. Philip Randolph

One of my favorite MLK quotes is life’s most persistent and urgent question: “What are you doing for others?” It reminds us that we are not here for ourselves. We live an interdependent life. No matter how we live our lives, we affect others. Will your legacy be one that helps or hurts? We have the opportunity to shape that answer.

Around the country, people honor the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with days or acts of service. We follow this time with Black History Month. We spend time thinking and honoring those folks who went before us.

The way that we live our lives creates a ripple effect on those we are connected to, whether it be good or bad. A woman that I often reference in my presentations and my writings was named Osceola McCarty. This was a woman who was conceived in rape and had very little schooling, as she dropped out to join her grandmother working as a laundrywoman. Yet, when she died, she was able to create a scholarship fund for “colored children” who didn’t have resources to go to the University of Southern Mississippi. This is an example of what can be done. This is an example of selflessness.

In an era where we see selfish narcissism in the highest office in the world, we may lose sight of the golden rule. When selfishness and lies seem to have garnered a true reward, we must be more steadfast than ever to be the change we want to see in the world.

I believe that in the current state of affairs, with the government shut down enhancing the current situation, we must be thoughtful about how we can build the world we want to have for the people that we love.

We have the ability to affect the people that we love today or anticipating loving tomorrow. Our circle of influence can indeed go beyond our immediate circle and, like Osceola McCarty, we can change generations to come.  

Martin affected uncountable numbers of people by leaving a legacy of words that changed the world. Martin’s selfless sacrifice of his life is greater than most people are able or willing to give. Yet, we can change the world by positively affecting our community and changing our families.

My mother passed away in 2014. She didn’t leave a great deal of wealth to speak of, yet when we celebrated her homegoing, I was taken aback by the numbers of students who spoke of her great impact on their lives. But in many ways, that was to be expected. I was blown away by the service professionals that spoke about how her words changed their lives. It really was comforting to me and my siblings to hear about the legacy she left. Yet, when we saw a picture of my mother in the Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta with a sign at the March on Washington, I knew there was no way I would ever know the true impact of her legacy.  

Let’s build a legacy that changes lives that we can never count.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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