The Humorous Side of Martin Luther King, Jr.
This may seem like a strange post to blog about on Martin Luther King day but I think it is actually important for a couple reasons – 1. We forget to humanize a lot of our heroes, particularly for the younger set which is important so they realize that very great things come from regular people like us; and 2. it’s a side of MLK we don’t often read or hear about. (Also, this is sort of a comedy blog so there’s that, too.)
I have been reading up on MLK lately, maybe because there has been so much press around the recent release of Selma, maybe because my kids are of the age we they are developing their social conscious or maybe because of a combination of both.
It was very interesting to read older interviews from MLK’s days in college where he was known to have a pretty goofy sense of play and humor and how he developed into one of the greatest orators and leaders of our time. It was as interesting, also, to read about the very private MLK that we don’t know about too much – the man who, behind closed doors, would share jokes with fellow preachers and use humor to deflect some of the gravity of what he saw, felt and lived on a daily basis.
This, by far, was a very inspirational thing for me to learn because just as MLK said he chooses to stick with love over hate because the burden of choosing hate was too great, he chose to use humor over blame or negativity to manage stress and the reality of dealing with deeply dark moments.
It occurred to me that, in my family, this was a similar path. My parents raised my sister and I so that family came first – for everything. Sometimes it was too much, to be honest. That being said, there was a healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) amount of sarcasm and humor to deal with intense situations and this served well in the most dire of times.
One time that sticks in my head was after my grandfather died. He was really a core focal point for our family. His death was a very difficult thing for my entire family, particularly my mother. After his funeral, we all went back to my grandmother’s house for Shiva, a ceremonial period of mourning in the Jewish faith. Before we knew it, we were laughing about memories and silly things.
After 3 days, I had to leave to go back to where I lived. My car was in my grandparents’ driveway. I stood facing my parents, sister at my side. It occurred to all of us simultaneously that next time we were back there together, time will have changed. It was the end of the era.
My eyes welled up and then the flood gates opened for everyone. It was over almost as soon as it began and then we smiled each other, hugged and laughed – at the craziness of it all; this family who holds nothing in, restraining ourselves from crying at a loss. How funny. Truly, it was hilarious.
On this MLK day, when his “I have a dream” is his most famous speech, let’s celebrate the humility that it takes to be a great leader, to show vulnerability, to wade through difficult waters and to never give up.
Until next time,
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