On the wall of my office hangs one of my most cherished gifts…a framed picture of a hand drawn tree, the leaves of the tree were created using the thumbprints of the students, faculty, and staff at Saint Patrick Catholic School in Memphis, TN. Inscribed on the trunk of the tree are these words: “The seeds you have planted will bear great fruit.”
Today, across the United States, we remember, honor, and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Had it not been for the champions of justice and equality, like Dr. King, there is a chance that the “Thumbprint Tree” would not be in my possession. You see, Saint Patrick School’s population is predominately African American and I am Caucasian, before the civil rights movement it would have been highly unlikely that our paths would have been allowed to cross. I am so happy that I have been able to partake of the fruit from the seeds planted by Dr. King. My life and heart would have been a bit empty if I had not had the chance to love and be touched by my students at Saint Patrick School. When I left Saint Patrick, I left a piece of my heart and, in return, they left their print on my heart.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Hidden Figures. It tells the true story of a team of African American women who provided NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space mission (description from Malco Theaters). I highly recommend this movie! Although we never met, I now have a very small glimpse into the lives (and intelligence) of that trio working with NASA: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. It caused me to the think of the countless people who are not given credit for achievements simply because of their status in life. These three had two strikes against them: African American and female. How easy it is for some to overlook others simply because they are different.
Solidarity is one of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.” Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm
Dr. King had a dream and today we must still work to keep the dream alive. Let each of us continue to sow the seeds of compassion and empathy so others can enjoy the fruit of equality and justice, regardless of race, gender, or creed.