Monday, January 20, 2014

"What's going to happen to the dream now that the man who had it is dead?" my 5-year-old son asked me

The question from my preschooler came out of the blue:
"What's going to happen to the Dream not that the man who had it is dead?"

My son's question came as he was sitting in his booster seat in the back seat of the car and I was driving us from his preschool to dinner.
 "Wow! Where did that come from? And how do I answer it?" went through my mind.
It had been about six months since my son, then 5, had gone to Memphis for my brother's wedding. While there, we visited the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lost his life to an assassin's bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.  Attached to that preserved landmark is the National Civil Rights Museum.

It's a fabulous museum every parent should take their child if they get a chance.  It's much more important than a Disney trip.  (He went there too -- with his Mom.) ;-)
 One of the exhibits has a bus like the one where Rosa Parks kept her seat and dignity near the front.  As we walked on to the bus, it triggered a pre-recorded bark from the bus driver:  "Get to the back of the bus!"
"I want to get off here.  I don't like him.  Why is he so mean?" my son, Kevin said.

Other exhibits immersed us in the late 1950s and early 1960s ... and that day when Dr. King delivered his epic "I Have a Dream" speech.

That day, I wasn't sure whether anything had really sunk in.
But four months later, I knew for certain it did. And it was a dream come true for me as a proud parent.

To answer his question, after clearing some tears from my eyes, I said:  
"As long as there are people like you and me working to make the dream come true, it will stay alive forever."

He's 13 now.  When he was about 6, we participated in the annual march in Columbus across a bridge to a special even on MLK Day at Veteran's Memorial.  He's asked and said many other things that have made me proud of how he has embraced social justice.  In some cases, it's just the fact he hasn't been tainted by intolerances and biases that are taught.   Part of it I credit to the wonderfully diverse child care center at Ohio State University that he attended from when he was 7 weeks old until he finished preschool.   More than once when he heard of a case of somebody being treated differently because of the way they look or who they love, he had a quick summary judgment: "That's stupid!"   :-)