For the first time in years, my travel scheduled allowed me to be in Baltimore for the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. Even though my recent hip surgery made it hard to march, I was so glad I could cheer on our BES contingent. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero of mine from as far back into my childhood as I can remember. When I became a teacher one particular speech he gave stuck with me. In “The Drum Major Instinct” King recalls a parable in which John and James ask Jesus if they can sit at the right hand of God. King points out that such a request might be taken to be selfish. Should Jesus have condemned John and James for this?
King answers that Christ gave James and John a different answer. In King’s words, “He said in substance, ‘Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you’re going to be my disciple, you must be.’ But he reordered priorities. And he said, ‘Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.’”
For King, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a moral hero. It’s great to want to be a drum major if you are part of the parade promoting the inherent self worth of every individual. In these challenging times, we need as many marching in this parade as we can get!