Do you remember when we all used to like each other?
I do. In fact, I remember when our shared national aspiration was to dream big dreams and become bigger people.
A few years ago, I was at an upscale burger place in Atlanta with my youngest daughter. The décor was big pine farm style tables, placed very close together.
My daughter and I were seated waiting on our burgers, the table next to us, less than a foot from our table, was vacant. After a few minutes, an African-American family sat down beside us: a mom, a dad, two college-age boys, and a grandmother. Our elbows were practically touching; we naturally started talking.
My daughter and I chatted with the family a bit about the excellent burgers and the beautiful day. Then just as our burgers arrived, I happened to look up at the restaurant wall. There was a large photo of the red rolling hills of Georgia.
All of a sudden something hit me, . . . the red hills of Georgia, a farm table, sitting down together. It felt familiar, but I wasn’t sure why.
I racked my brain, I couldn’t remember, but I knew it meant something. As I was turning it over and over in my head, it finally came to me. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
It hit me. Here we are at the table of brotherhood. We are the sons and daughters of former slaves and former slave owners. We are sitting at the table, talking.
I almost burst into tears. MLK’s dream didn’t just metaphorically happen, it is really happening, and it’s happening to me. On a sunny Saturday in Georgia, we are sitting at the table eating French fries and burgers.
My daughter and I are literally sitting at the table of brotherhood chatting away with this nice family, on a sunny Saturday in Georgia. And the most amazing thing about this is: it’s no big deal!
I can’t know what the black family felt. I was so moved; I choked up and was afraid to speak. I regret I didn’t say anything to them. In the moment I was afraid if I brought it up, I’d look like a stupid silly white person. In hindsight, I wish I had put my self-consciousness aside, and shared what was in my heart.
MLK’s I have a Dream speech took place over 50 years ago. I was born and raised in Washington DC, not far from the Lincoln memorial, where he gave the speech. On the day MLK declared his dream, my mother was sitting about a mile away, very pregnant with me. If someone had told her, fifty years from now, your daughter and your granddaughter, will be sitting at the table of brotherhood with a black family, she would have been pleased.
I don’t know about you, but I miss feeling inspired about my country.
When I was a kid, I dreamed about the table of brotherhood. I’ve decided, I’m not going to wait on the politicians to set that table for us. It’s time for we the people, to set the table for ourselves.
If the politicians want to divide us, that’s their failure. I refuse to let it become my failure. If we want the table of brotherhood, we’re the ones who need to invite our fellow citizens to join us.