This day and the fact that I just watched The Help have sent me tripping back down memory lane. Of course, my memory doesn't go back to the 60's but it does go back to Mississippi - to Jackson, to Mendenhall. Jackson brings back memories of the youth group mission trips I went on as a young teen and Mendenhall in my more recent, collegiate past.
As I watch The Help with Grady, I was taken back to the tours I went on in Jackson and the distinct difference in quality of life there still is on one side of the tracks compared to the other. "People still live in those run-down homes pictured in the movie," I remarked. So much healing has already taken place, but many of the scars are still evident; and there is healing still to be done.
Mendenhall is a small town outside of Jackson. It is the childhood home of Dr. John Perkins. This man began in many ways where Martin Luther King left off. His biographies tell difficult stories of life in Mississippi before, but mostly after Civil Rights. He suffered great wrong but by God's grace and strength he forgives and presses on, pursuing the vision, the dream. Although he was not educated past early elementary school, he has been awarded a number of honorary doctorates for his work in community-building and reconciliation - his first doctorate awarded to him by my alma mater, where I was privileged to hear him speak.
His hometown still struggles both with poverty and with racial divides. The school we volunteered at, the church we worshiped in, the neighborhood we stayed in, they were real world reminders of how "de facto" has, in places, taken the place of "de jure." I studied sociology - the many potential reasons for what happens and why in society. The 'why' is important, but what I think of now is simply that it is. And then I think of what can be.
The dream, the beloved community, is a journey. It is one that I take with purpose and with eyes and heart open.
Of course, I needn't have gone all the way to Mississippi to see people divided, to see people healing. That's simply the place I was when I first saw it. In our nation, Dr. King's dream is becoming our reality. Over remarkably few years (but still too many), the perspective has changed. And yet I still dream:
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."