By Gil Gonzalez
In the spirit of the Martin Luther King holiday, this week’s prompt for Random Writers is about overcoming adversity.
As I reflect back on all I learned about Dr. King and those involved in the Civil Rights Movement, I can’t begin to imagine the resolve each of those individuals had in order to continue to press forward the way they did. I think about the images of protestors beaten by police and assaulted with water from fire truck hoses. I try to understand a life in which there were separate doors and water fountains for blacks and whites. I think about the pride they must feel to look back at what they had to overcome in order for their children and grandchildren to live the lives they have today.
As I look back on my own life, I can’t think of any adversity that remotely comes close to those faced by African-Americans in the Sixties. By comparison, my life has been a breeze. Growing up in Miami, being Hispanic was never an issue. If anything, it’s perhaps one of the few cities in the United States where Anglos can be considered – by perception if not statistics – as the minorities. If I was discriminated against in college, it surely wasn’t overt or direct. I can’t think of one time in the six years I lived in New Orleans where I had a problem simply because my last name ends in E-Z. Since moving back to Florida in 1996, there have been only two times I can specifically recall being offended by something someone said or did because of my race.
So I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to writing about overcoming adversity. Anything I can think of pales in comparison to the struggles, battles, and suffering those who made up the Civil Rights Movement had to endure. Even though my parents didn’t have a lot of money, we never really went without. Sure, we didn’t go out to restaurants or movies, but there was always food on the table, new clothes (well … if you can call hand-me-downs new), and a roof over our heads. Today as an adult, I still find I have lots to do in terms of bettering my fiscal responsibilities, but nothing that can be considered an adversity.
What I can write about overcoming adversity is what I learned from the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Begin in faith. Faith in God and faith in the power of perseverance. The problems in front of us won’t be resolved overnight, and the distance from here to there is always made shorter with every step that’s taken.
- Compassion is the greatest weapon of all. Violence and negativity, be it physical actions against someone else, hatred in the words we direct at others, or even self-destructive tendencies we may use to cope with a situation, are never productive in support of the end goal. Through kindness and grace, the strength to stand firmly against any particular adversary can be found.
- One person can make a difference, but a community of people can change the world. Dr. King didn’t change the culture of our country all by himself. He had millions of individuals who chose to stand by his side, protest the injustices they were forced to endure, and affect change for themselves and all those who followed. When faced with personal adversity, we should always remember we do not have to face it alone. Family, friends, community; they all make a difference in carrying us through the tough times, and the seeds of perseverance are found in the hearts of anyone willing to help you overcome a struggle.
I’ve written time and time again how fortunate and blessed I am for the life that I lead. The work of Dr. Martin Luther King is a reminder of those blessings. It’s a reminder that no mountain is insurmountable, and that darkness cannot hide from the light of truth and goodness. In summary, I believe Dr. King said it best.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”