Today, we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday with a couple of videos* specifically tailored for children’s understanding. When we were done, my six-year old announced that he was going to color a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ben joined him in coloring on the living room floor, and I printed out the “I Have a Dream Speech,” to read to them as they were doing their art.
I cannot read that speech in a plain voice. I cannot imagine anyone being able to read that speech dry. It is impassioned, it is poetic, it is visionary and I could hear the timber and quality of his voice in my head as I read it aloud to my kids. I needed to point to highlight certain words. I cried. My kids turned around from their coloring to check on mom, and when I continued with a big lump in my throat, they continued.
I asked them what stood out to them, and they said the “Free at Last” part – “Thank God Almighty, We are Free at Last.”
What got me, and I came back to it to mull it over some more, was this line:
“Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Scott and I were talking about it this morning before the boys woke up – the intensity of the conflict, and the hatred spewed during that time (sadly, even still, we have this level of hatred toward those of difference). It is one thing to remain calm when your opposition is being polite. It is quite another thing to remain calm when your opposition has the power to hurt you with brute force, and the will to hurt you with brute force, and the support of the powers that be to allow them to hurt you with brute force. It is quite another thing to be preaching peace toward enemies that are intent on breaking you by any means possible.
We were thinking of just understanding that peaceful protest side of things – understanding how to remain calm especially when things are escalating. We were talking about how to help our boys learn to disagree without yelling, how to be on opposing sides of an issue (or a lego, to be realistic) and not lose all sense of control.
Perhaps that is why this section of the speech stood out to me so much this morning. I want to instill in my boys the idea of Soul Force.
We keep talking about how lucky we are that our home is full of love. Our boys play together really well, and then sometimes want to tear each other limb from limb. Sometimes anger gets scary. Fists get clenched, and jaws are tight, there is darkness behind the eyes.
As a parent, I can model Soul Force, by not jumping in when they are loud, by taking a breath first. I can’t run in there yelling at them for yelling. That makes no sense. If we start out with a soul full of love, and know that no matter what happens, we aim to remain in that place of calm, loving strength in the midst of chaos, we can help them learn to navigate their emotions.
When I think of Staying Calm as a Strength of Force against a Gale, somehow that doesn’t seem very timid or mild anymore. Staying Calm is now a Not Backing Down from Loving you Immensely, and I’m going to model this for you so you can grow up wise and strong and non-violent.
This is the same as being Mindful – it just seems to have more power to sway me when I see it as being steadfast of Soul, having Force of Soul. That resonates with me.
What does Soul Force imply for you?