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How Dr. King Touched My Life

Dustin Foster - Dear Mom (and everyone else reading), 

I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta History Center after having just viewed the Martin Luther King, Jr. papers.  The collection includes many of his speeches, sermons, and annotated books.  What is so amazing about viewing these documents? his notes.  His sermons and speeches each contain a number of revisions that show King’s constant search for improvement of both himself and his message.  Our experiences with Dr. King these last few days have been vast.  We visited his home, his birthplace, his final resting place, his church…we’ve even met a man who marched with Dr. King, whose friends died fighting for justice, equality.  I ask myself what this means in a nation where so much time and energy could be spent on hatred and misunderstanding.  The land of the free? I think not, but certainly the home of the brave.  What these men and women have done, following in the nonviolent traditions from Mohandes Ghandi, can be considered no less than extraordinary, but somehow it should never have been needed to be done at all.  This trip has, for me, been a rollercoaster of elation, love, warmth, hatred, violence, and death.  Seeing videos of lynchings juxtaposed by the lovingly erected memorials of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King leaves too little room for escape.  It’s too hard to forget, it has to be carried, and the load is heavy.  You begin to see what they were fighting for, and why the fought so hard, and why people continue to fight.

Well, enough of that, I guess, these things are supposed to be joyful, right? The truth is, I’m having one the best weeks of my whole life.  I’ve met so many wonderful people and grown closer to ones I had already known.  We’ve seen so much.  I’ve been saying that I cannot wait until I see another civil rights special on television: “I’ve been there, I’ve been there…”  It is truly amazing how a college course or class trip can completely expose your inadequacies as a human being.  I’d thought I was doing pretty well in that department, but I’ve found I still have work to do.  I’ve spent so much time focusing on ridding my life of hate that I overlooked its subtler forms of assumption and misunderstanding.  Hmmm, I seem to keep falling back into this thoughtfully melancholy vein.  We’ve had fun though, seriously.  It just seems to take a back seat to all of the important history we are trying to see, but I’ve complemented this with some more artistic deviations.  I’ve seen two plays so far: Some Men off Broadway and A Chorus Line at Howard University.  I won’t go into too many details, but both productions were good.  We—that is, Andrew, Kevin, and your humble narrator—were quite lucky to see A Chorus Line, because it was a special preview the night before it opened.  Afterwards, Kevin called his friend Cherelle who proceeded to round up about eight of her girlfriends for a night on the town.  We had tea and talked at a Hookah Bar in Adams Morgan.  The girls were beautiful, fun, and just a pleasure for the heart and mind.  Being in a group of nearly fifteen where I was one of three men is something I have not experienced for some time…I loved it.

Last night, we ate and laughed at Ms. McIntyre’s mother’s—the Rev. McIntyre—house.  We had an absolutely wonderful time eating a lovely and filling dinner, telling stories, singing, reciting poetry, and learning about love.  The McIntyre home is full of warmth and appreciation for the human spirit in all of its intricacies and differences: a theme present throughout this journey.  I can say, that on one warm winter evening in the living room of near strangers, I felt loved, understood, and welcome.  I can only hope to someday repay these kindnesses present throughout this week and throughout my life through my own actions, understandings, and purpose.