The Dr. Marin Luther King Memorial Adventure
January 18, 2016
Today is Martin Luther King Day, and that triggered a memory of something that happened to me a long time ago in Atlanta, Georgia.
It was near the end of January, 1986; I had just flown into Atlanta to attend a nutrition conference. It was a cold day by Georgia standards – temps in the 30’s, and because a couple of inches of snow had fallen that morning, schools had been cancelled.
I hailed a taxi at the airport, prepared to be driven directly to the hotel. My taxi driver, who we’ll call ‘Stan’, began driving and we shared stories. I noticed his Bible on the dashboard, and he told me he was a Pentecostal minister in addition to a taxi driver… Somehow I must have mentioned loving God, too, and as we kept talking and driving, Stan suddenly asked me if I wanted to take a little detour on the way to the hotel…
You see, he knew where Martin Luther King’s childhood home was, and asked if I wanted to drive by it. And, he said, we could probably get close to Dr. King’s grave as well. (Martin Luther King Day had just become a national holiday three years before, and Atlanta had just had a large celebration the week before)…and Stan thought things had died down by now – and especially with the miserable weather, things were guaranteed to be quiet.
So Stan drove me to Dr. King’s grave – really a large stone crypt standing in the middle of a beautiful large courtyard. He asked me if I wanted to see the site up close, and I did… As it turned out, the snow had melted to ice, so Stan graciously offered me his arm and literally ‘skated’ me across the plaza to the grave. (The site became official later that year, and now is the Martin Luther King National Historic Site managed by the U.S. park Service – and Dr. King’s crypt is now surrounded by a reflecting pool – so we couldn’t have just walked right up to the site!)
I wish I could say I had appreciated the importance of that day back then – but seeing Dr. King’s boyhood home and final resting place felt like a wonderful adventure, much like visiting a former President’s grave. It was important, and was unique, and I was thankful- Stan had even turned off his meter for the ‘detour’ and didn’t charge me!
Now, 30 years later, I am amazed that this experience happened…and am grateful to have been there. As I became more familiar with Dr. King’s writings at Bethel seminary, became convinced of the priority of racial reconciliation, and am fortunate to pastor a church that values multiple cultures – I see how this seemingly random experience in Atlanta in the 1980’s was helpful to my development as a person and as a follower of Jesus.
Thank you, Dr. King, for your work and your legacy.