What We Can Learn From Martin Luther King Jr About Having Purpose?
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed into effect the law that set aside the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This past Monday was our day to celebrate that holiday in 2019. Across the Nation there were many different celebrations to mark the event and honor the life of the man who did so much to improve the Civil Rights of citizens in America and across the world.
In our corner of the world, my son's school district had a Martin Luther King Jr. speech competition. This was the third year that Coleman had been apart of this competition. It's a lot of work and kids from kindergarten to the 12th grade study and prepare to recite anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes of one of his speeches or writings.
As we sat in the competition this year, one of the boys stood up and recited words that were familiar for my youth-- that I had no idea were attributed to Dr. King.
They were from his speech, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint” and were:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
It's about the idea that no matter what we do we do it well. It's about taking pride in your work. In fact, it's more than just work. he says, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper.” How does our effort and commitment change if we look at what we're doing not as a job or a task, but a calling?
You can't have a calling and not be committed. You can't have a calling without a purpose. In fact, its purpose that creates the calling.
He continues to talk about street sweeping as art and that we should do our tasks the way artists approaches their art. Whether it was the Sistine Chapel, The David, The 5th Syphony. Fur Elise, Hamlet, or The Taming of the Shrew, artists like Michelangelo, Beethoven and Shakespeare became legendary because they knew their purpose way before they ever began.
It's important to think about not only what Dr. King said, but who he said at to. Six months before he was assassinated, in October of 1967, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. These were kids who had a very real chance to be discriminated against and treated unfairly. they knew that they could end up being paid less for the same work or might be overqualified for an entry-level job. And still, in the midst of all that, his counsel is the same. Find purpose in your work-- regardless of the circumstance, and take pride in every single thing you choose to do.
What work are you attached in your name to today? Do you look at it as a calling? Do you pay attention to it the way an artist would care for their painting? If you do, then you understand a little about what it means to Have Purpose.
It’s wise counsel from a man who lived what he taught. Give everything you have to everything you do, and not only will you get exceedingly good at what you do, but, you'll find that your purpose will bring passion into your life. You wlll not only be grateful for your work, you'll start to love it -- no matter what it is. and it won't just be the Host of Heaven that will sing your praises.
If you'd like to see Coleman's latest entry in the District Martin Luther King, Jr Speech Competition, check it out here: