I was raised by two loving parents in a white, upper-middle-class, Deep South family. I went to church and was given every advantage; there was absolutely no reason for me to sink into disillusionment and depression. But about age 15 I did anyway, became lost and devoid of goals and focus. How miraculously fortunate it has been, then, that I discovered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Most think only of Dr. King's civil rights efforts, so his first calling as a preacher, an uplifter of the human spirit, tends to get lost in that immense conflagration. However, about 15 years ago a snippet of one of his speeches immediately struck brutally at my alarmingly dark, self-absorbed attitude. The sudden liberation I felt was amazing.
Arguably the greatest treasure in my life since that priceless moment in my early 20s is Dr. King's autobiography, edited by Claybourne Carson. This compendium always is near my bed. It's impossible to get too down in the dumps reading, say, how Dr. King dealt with the daily threat of murder for his countless altruistic efforts. Yet somehow Dr. King, despite his constant, terrifying troubles, makes me feel like he'd always take a few minutes to lend one of life's most empathetic ears.
No, Dr. King hasn't been a panacea for me. Although my nihilism no longer has the same bite, I must do many different things in the struggle to keep my numerous personal defects at bay, every single day.
Notwithstanding the supernova of moral probity that was Dr. King's unbending perseverance of the loftiest goals in human history, he has done as much as anything else to inspire me away from my own intoxicatingly conscienceless demons. And I wish these few pitiful words could do any justice to expressing my gratitude for that. Undying thanks, Dr. King.
Nathan Kirby, Augusta