MLK reminds us that we should strive to be remembered for our love and service to others
How do you want to be remembered?
It’s paradoxical that answering a question about death can be so wildly important to living a more vibrant life. Perhaps even more surprising, though, is realizing the very thing that is assured to us all is also so rarely considered.
And yet my friends, it turns out that while we may indeed share equally in the profound gift of this day, we also share in the certainty that tomorrow is promised to none of us.
So, if tomorrow does not come, how do you want those who knew you best to remember you?
Just weeks before his own death, Martin Luther King Jr asked his congregation to consider this question. He acknowledged that the world pressures individuals to strive to be first, to endeavor to be great and to be seen as truly important.
King challenged his congregation to embrace this notion. It was, he suggested, the proper instinct. And he went on to implore them to not give up the need for being great and important and first.
With his voice rising, though, he implored them to strive to be first in love, first in moral excellence, first in generosity. Those who seek to become greatest among us must become servants, which he shared was good news for us all because everyone of us can serve.
King then shared prophetically that every now and then he thought about his own death, his own funeral and what others would say. And then, he told his congregation exactly what he wanted.
“When I meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.
And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long.
Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important.
Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important.
Tell them not to mention where I went to school.
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.
Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.
And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
I won’t have any money to leave behind.
I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind.
But I just want to leave a committed life behind.
And that’s all I want to say.
More than five decades after his death, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr Day today. And we don’t celebrate his Nobel Peace Prize, his three or four hundred other awards or where he went to school. We celebrate a man who laid down his life, each day, in striving to be first in love, moral excellence, generosity and equality.
My friends, your awards, trophies, diplomas and job titles will fade.
But striving to be first in love, showing up for others, and making your life about something far bigger than yourself will be remembered not only after your death, but will positively change the world while you are alive.
Let’s strive to be first in that race.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King have carried on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through their leadership of the Drum Major Institute. I'm blown away by their work, humbled by their friendship and honored they shared their story with the Live Inspired community. Check out their interview on the Live Inspired podcast!