Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Have a Dream

Happy MLK Day, friends!! Today is the day we celebrate the life of one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of all time, relish the victories he won for mankind, and solemnly reflect on the ideals for which he fought and died. Or we sleep late, go out for brunch, and spend the afternoon skiing. One or the other.

I actually am skiing today, but before I enjoy my day off, I wanted to take a few moments to remember why today is a holiday. I may share my ski lift today with someone from another race. Just 50 years ago, this would have been inconceivable - and what a miraculous victory for all of humanity that today it's perfectly normal!

Of course, from a statistical standpoint, it is unlikely that my lift buddy will actually be black or hispanic or otherwise nonwhite. We've made monumental strides towards legal equality for all, and stamped the red badge of shame on racial prejudice, even if we haven't eradicated it. But when it comes to economic equality - well, let's just say we needn't shout our victories from the mountaintop just yet.

I spend every day in the Emergency Department with my hands plunged (sometimes literally) up to the elbows in the fruits of economic injustice. In the world's richest nation, I routinely see elderly people who have to choose between food and medicine. I see able-bodied adults on welfare because of lack of education or job skills. And I see teenagers pumped full of bullets after running afoul of the drug trade - a career path they choose because they think it's their only ticket out of poverty. And after every shift, I come home to my beautiful house and hug my beautiful children, and think about how one day I will have to explain to them why the world is so profoundly unfair.

I can't fix the world, and you can't either. We can't all be Martin Luther King. But what we can all do is have a dream. We won't sound as good talking about our dreams as MLK did, but we can still envison a world that is kinder, safer, greener, or more just. And we can all do at least one thing to bring our dreams just a little bit closer to reality. It doesn't have to be today (did I mention that I'm going skiing?), and it doesn't have to be a grand sweeping gesture. Just One Small Thing that makes the world a better place - we all have that much within our power.

Anyone who's spent more than 37 consecutive seconds with me most likely knows what my One Small Thing is. 2012 will mark my seventh year as an organizer and participant in Ride for the Feast, a 140-mile charity bike ride to raise funds and awareness for Moveable Feast - an amazing organization in Baltimore that provides food assistance and social support for people in Maryland living with HIV/AIDS or breast cancer. Along with my incredible teammates on Team Atomic, I have pedaled thousands of miles, and done anything and everything to raise money, up to and including taking off my clothes. And it doesn't matter about how exhausted it all makes me, how sore and chafed I become, how far behind I am in my work, or how big the laundry pile gets. Because I know that someone who would otherwise go hungry will now be able to eat. And yes, you can help.

A few weeks ago, I had the immense honor of hearing Martin Luther King III speak at an award ceremony at Hopkins. He talked about his undergraduate education at Antioch College in Ohio, where there was a statue of Horace Mann inscribed with the words "Be ashamed to die until you have won a victory for humanity." MLK clearly won his victory for humanity, but we don't all have to be MLK. We don't have to abolish segregation or lead 250,000 people in a march on Washington. We just have to do our One Small Thing. And indeed, we should truly be ashamed if we don't.

What's yours?

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