Yesterday as the news feeds and Facebook posts proclaimed their great sadness over the death of Maya Angelou, I too was sad. I am sad when anyone in this world loses someone they love–a feeling I understand all too well–but I’ll admit that I was also saddened by something else. I just couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.
And then this morning David LaMotte, a man whom I had the privilege of meeting a few months ago, shared his thoughts and feelings in a post on his Facebook page. This singer/songwriter/author/man of peace touched on exactly what was breaking my heart.
“Shocked into stillness this morning, having just realized that in all of the craziness of the European tour, I did not realize that Vincent Harding died last week. One more giant has left us. I didn’t know Vincent Harding well at all, but… I got to meet him and talk a bit a couple of times at the Wild Goose Festival. This picture is from last year’s WGF. This legendary civil rights hero, theologian, historian and author, who wrote speeches for Martin Luther King, was completely available and interested in Mason [David’s son], asking him questions and engaging. That seems to have been pretty typical of him.
In the last year we’ve lost Nelson Mandela, Pete Seeger, Maya Angelou, Vincent Harding… and I’m sure many others. But please, please, my friends, don’t say “We’ll never see their like again.”
Each of these people, and many more unnamed, were people who made daily choices, who worked out their courage muscles one day at a time. They were not a different kind of person. They just made decisions. If we merely applaud, and wonder at how strong they were, then we are completely missing one of the central points that they were trying to make—that it is up to all of us to bring whatever gifts we have to the work of creating and supporting what is good for all of us, and standing in the way of what is oppressive and destructive. All of us. It is up to us whether we see their like again. It is up to us to choose whether we will be spectators or participants.
The famous Catholic activist Dorothy Day said “Don’t call us saints. We don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” Let’s honor these heroes by taking some small steps in the direction they pointed us. Though we remember them for their leaps, they all took small steps to begin with, and those steps mattered, and continued to take small steps throughout their lives. They had good days and bad days like all of us, but they kept choosing to live in the kind of hope that doesn’t simply comfort us with pleasant visions, but drives us to take action to actively move toward them.
Thank you, Vincent Harding, for being kind to me and my son, and for inspiring more than one generation. We’ll try to pay attention.” –David LaMotte 5/29/2014
Amen. Please don’t count us out. We too have the chance to do great things. I wrote in a card to one of my favorite graduates in the class of 2014–it is in the making of kind and compassionate choices, one after another, each one, that great things begin. I think that’s how each one of the people mentioned by David LaMotte made a difference in this world. Kindness. Not letting a bump in the road stop them. Continuing onward.
Don’t count us out. And please don’t count out my children. The ones I’m doing my best to raise to love folks and make a difference in this world–by being good stewards of all around them, just as my folks taught me. Are we all going to fail at some point? Yes. But it’s in the getting up, wiping off our hands and bruised hearts that we shed light and goodness in the world. It’s in the “keep on keeping on,” as my Daddy would say, despite the bumps and bruises and heartaches, that we change the world for the better. And ourselves.
David LaMotte has already said it all, far better than I could have. And I am thankful for that. I think the greatest tribute to the lives of these good people so loved, whom have left this life, is for us all to live as they did, and “actively move forward” toward the “pleasant visions” of peace and love and caring for each other.
In other words, for us to do as they did. And DO.
And finally a few more wise words from another good person, Hugh Hollowell
, who commented on David LaMotte’s post: “We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the answer to our prayers.”
Oh my. Yes.
Love to all.
**I looked to see if there is someone to attribute Hugh Hollowell’s words to–the closest I can find is from a poem by June Jordan here and a book by Alice Walker here. **