I particularly am thinking of this from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible - the known pilots and the unknown ground crew." I think of the price paid by his family as he answer the call to advocate for the children who struggled with underfunded educational opportunities and unequal economic opportunity and below par access to medical care.
It could certainly be argued that he had the right to be a fine pastor who spent nights with his family and was a caring and helpful neighbor and might, thereby, have lived more years in the bosom of that family and served his congregation well. But for sake of those with fewer options he asked his family to support his broader calling.
I believe this was a significant part of his power: he asked not for himself, but for those without voice, without choice, without hope. And he offered a dream of a better world, not for just those who are disenfranchised by bigotry or a less than equitable economic reality, but for all. Because he understood, and articulated so well, the reality that none are free until all are free.
Do I expect this kind of freedom to ever fully happen? It seems unlikely, but Dr. King pointed us to the reality that the striving itself is important and life-affirming. Is it harder to be in prison with no one writing or accepting your calls and experiencing such a terrible kind of abandonment that you don't know if your nearest and dearest are dead or alive, or to know that there is still somewhere someone who remembers you, cares about you and claims you?
This is Dr. King's gift to me: I am charged to never give up on seeking justice, sharing burdens and giving according to my ability that I might be the hands and feet of God comforting and aiding all my fellow travelers.
So today I say a special thanks to Martin and Coretta's children: Yolanda Denise King (dec'd), Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice Albertine King, who accepted many challenges and losses so that generations of other children might better understand the responsibilities and hopes that inform a world now called to dream a better dream because of the work their father did.