The ambiance and demeanor is noticeably different from what I’ve grown accustomed to growing up on the Northwest side of Chicago. People make contact in ways that would mandate a chop to the larynx in the Windy City, but I have to admit that I find it redeeming. For example, people make direct eye contact with you and a smile and/or nod will typically follow.
When a conversation is struck, they lean in, as if to assure that none of the dialogue is missed, there is a warmth that is sometimes manifested with a touch on the shoulder or elbow.
The drawl varies in its intensity and I’ve found that it isn’t universal, as each speaker has a particular inflection that is their own. It reminds me of the drawl that I infrequently hear in my grandmother, despite her making Chicago her home for nearly seven decades, it’ll sometimes find its way through.
Although I am in the Deep South, the Heart of Dixie, I am pleasantly surprised that the difference isn’t as foreign as I was inclined to believe.
I had a long day planned out and there was a sense of bubbling anticipation as I sat down in an IHOP for breakfast. The din of Motown music filled the air, I tilted my head and tried to recall if music was typically played in IHOP – but my attention was diverted as I looked over to observe the man at the table across from me snapping his fingers in concert with Gladys Knight’s exhortations about that late train to Georgia.
There was a feeling that I couldn’t place, I think it was one of unrequited nervousness, as I gulped my coffee down and felt it coat my stomach ,the gravity of it all settled on me. It was a feeling of completion, I was finally making the trek to visit a place that I had endeavored to visit since I was a child, a place that I had only visited via the medium of books.
Checking off visiting Dr. King’s birthplace and the King Center from my list would be a reality within the hour. As a lifelong history nerd, me being excited would be a gargantuan understatement.
When I arrived on Auburn Street it was a surreal experience as it looked like a number of places elsewhere in the country that I’ve had the opportunity to visit, but upon coming to the home itself, I had to remind myself to breath and breath I did.
As I toured the historic area, which is part of the National Park Service, the notion of family which was paramount in Dr. King’s family was glaringly apparent as I made my way through the center, Freedom Hall, the reflecting pool, Dr and Mrs. King’s crypt and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
It was overwhelming, as I stood in middle of Ebenezer Baptist Church while people mulled around me I felt myself mouthing the words… Unselfish.
This is a quality that is wholly absent from our culture in the present. “This me first, reading ain’t fundamental, celebrity obsessed, shoot first, screw asking a question” environment that we are ensconced in was not what this man gave his life for.
He could have opted for a comfortable existence in Atlanta pastoring his church and being on hand for his family, but he saw an injustice and opted to serve his larger family, the human race. His work took him away from his family for weeks on end, but he forged ahead despite the perils that presented themselves.
Those who serve as our leaders are more preoccupied with maintaining their tenuous hold on power rather than doing what is hard, which is serving the larger goal of human progress.
Those who would and could lead are in a proverbial fog of sorts, paralyzed with their pants wrapped around their ankles seemingly content.
The common bond that these two groups have is that they are the antithesis to Dr. King, they have no vision as they allow selfishness and ignorance to serve as the fuel that powers them.
We look to celebrities for the image of what we should aspire to, yet we scratch our head in bewilderment at the repetitive news headlines as they continue in a depressing loop of sorts.
If you aren’t ashamed, Lord knows you should be. Realizing that I am selfish and part of the problem was sobering, but as I stood here there was a gnawing at the pit of my being…
Damnit, I don’t want to be selfish anymore, what’s wrong with aspiring to something more than the service of me?
Maybe I’m crazy while everyone else is sane, never mind.