Perhaps we’ve forgotten that Martin Luther King Jr. was never elected to run the civil rights movement or appointed to the job. He didn’t have “take on the entire nation’s long history of racial injustice” in his position description as a Baptist minister. And I’m fairly certain he didn’t suddenly decide to go change the world because he was ordered to do so by his boss, a Board of Directors or some steering committee. In fact, while he was encouraged by many, he was also vilified and challenged by many more.
We can only wonder what might have happened had King decided to wait around to be officially anointed or had hesitated to act boldly in the hope that others might step up first to take the heat and scorn.
Decades after King’s work the “is-ness of today” still stands in stark contrast to “the ought-ness of tomorrow.”
And every day we remain confronted by opportunities to challenge a status quo that isn’t working across many aspects of our lives and those of our brothers and sisters.
Sometimes that challenge shows up as a minor slight, other times it’s a devastating hurt. Sometimes it’s a system that simply doesn’t serve clients all that well, other times it’s one that perpetuates systemic injustice.
Every day we get to choose whether we will assume it’s always someone else’s job to act or whether we will be an uncrowned leader. Every day we decide whether it matters whether it’s in our official job description to step up or whether it is our personal responsibility as a part of our shared humanity.
If we plan on waiting to make a difference in the world until we get promoted or it’s in our job title we are likely to be waiting a long, long time.
As President Barack Obama reminds us “the arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.”