UNITED STATES—It's funny how we've got all our new holidays thanks to social leaders, like Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. I don't know of a single holiday declared in honor of a venture capitalist, and yet what mother tells her son or daughter, you go out and be a leader for social justice?
Martin Luther King was so much more, of course. He was a psychologist, a scholar, a theologian, inspirer and agent for change. He knew the human heart in all its splendor and ignominy. In him, I've also found a towering figure in self help. Listen to his words and they will give you truths to uplift, and he's not selling any real estate.
Last weekend I spent three days sequestered at a “Millionaires' Bootcamp” in a beige airport ballroom. When our conference concluded on Sunday, after having our dreams ignited, our human uniqueness stoked (“you are already a winner, 500,000 different yous swam furiously to reach your mother's egg, and you were it”), marvelous motivational stuff, but I felt kind of sick inside. The heavy hitters brought to the speakers brought to the platform distinctly conveyed the impression that the people most fit to help others were zillionaire CEOs. One CEO was fighting childhood obesity, another was saving an African nation, another had a pet foundation, and we could be like them if we played our cards right. Even as our hearts were open wide, and we were given very great tools to do greater good than ever before, many in the room were belittled.
From day one we were told that those who stood behind the line dividing the stage from the tables made astronomically more money. We were asked to fill out a questionnaire about dreams and goals and, by the way, divulge our financial status. “How much cash do you have on hand?” “Do you feel stuck financially?” It felt a bit like when you are a virgin Red Cross donor with high hopes for giving blood, and out of the blue they ask you if you've taken intravenous drugs or had anal sex. Some people at the conference were invited to “VIP” dinners, others weren't and they wondered why.
When the conference was over, I looked at my e-mail for the first time in days: certain headings assaulted my senses: Are you sabotaging your success? Release limiting beliefs, get out of the sea of mediocrity. I sharply felt the injustice of this barrage. How we allow ourselves to get taunted by this thinking, and buy into the idea that there's something wrong with us and deprecate ourselves because of it?
I thirsted for some perspective from the wise king, Dr. Martin Luther King. Some fortuitous housecleaning immediately unearthed a disk of a sermon Dr. King made the last year of his 39-year life. In “The Drum Major Instinct”--his take on the human desire to be first and lead the parade--he provided just the soul solvent to the melt away schism I had felt between the haves and the have-mores at the conference.
“If you want to be important, wonderful. You want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you, shall be your servant. That's your new definition of greatness,” Dr. King thundered from the pulpit. “It means that everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb to agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant.”
You only need a heart to help and serve. You don't need a million dollars. Maybe just going down the street and smiling at somebody, or holding the door open for someone will make a significant difference in ways we can never fully fathom. There was a young man who survived a suicidal leap off the Golden Gate Bridge and he tells that when he decided to jump he vowed that if, beforehand, someone asked how he was doing or smiled at him, he would decide life was worthwhile. Nobody did; the bus driver who left him off at his last stop didn't even look at him.
That smile or looking somebody right in the eyes can nip malice in the bud or simply inspire kindness. There are kind gestures and little acts always in our grasp, for we are born millionaires in our hearts. Let's honor the legacy of Martin Luther King start spending that love now.
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