Dr. King’s Gift From The Heart: The Gift of Being

The Gift of Being

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King this week, I‘m reminded how blessed we are to live in this nation. Few countries in modern history have exemplified the great change we have all experienced over the last 50 years. In the 46 years since Dr. King’s assassination this nation has confronted racial inequality like none other.

It took his death for our nation to realize the blessing he so desperately fought to magnify in all of our lives. Dr. King appreciated the blessing of humanity, he understood that pedigree does not determine purpose, and mere existence fills each and every person with intention and divine purpose.

On April 9, 1967 Dr. King spoke to the meaning of life and how to live a ‘heartfelt life’. He delivered a speech to the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, IL entitled; “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”: He espoused: 1) the length of life is “the inward concern for one’s own welfare. 2) The breadth of life is “the outward concern for the welfare of others. 3)“The height of life is the upward reach for God.” 

In the excerpt below, Dr. King defines the mission of purpose I discovered while serving overseas and reminds us how the essence of purpose in life is service to others:

 “What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

 If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill

Be a scrub in the valley—but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.

And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life. (Yes)

This onward push to the end of self-fulfillment is the end of a person’s life. Now don’t stop here, though. You know, a lot of people get no further in life than the length. They develop their inner powers; they do their jobs well. But do you know, they try to live as if nobody else lives in the world but themselves? (Yes) And they use everybody as mere tools to get to where they’re going. (Yes) They don’t love anybody but themselves. And the only kind of love that they really have for other people is utilitarian love. You know, they just love people that they can use. (Well)

A lot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life. They use other people as mere steps by which they can climb to their goals and their ambitions. These people don’t work out well in life. They may go for a while, they may think they’re making it all right, but there is a law. (Oh yeah) They call it the law of gravitation in the physical universe, and it works, it’s final, it’s inexorable: whatever goes up can come down. You shall reap what you sow. (Yeah) God has structured the universe that way. (Yeah) And he who goes through life not concerned about others will be a subject, victim of this law.

So I move on and say that it is necessary to add breadth to length. Now the breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others, as I said. (Yeah) And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

No matter where you find yourself in life, appreciate the blessing of being and rise to your highest calling, which you will find, is to serve others.


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