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Travel broadens the mind

Rev John MarriottSometimes we think or are lead to believe that bigger is better. A simple illustration of this could be a sign outside a shop saying “All you can eat for £8.95”.

On a recent visit to the city of Atlanta in Georgia I found the Coca Cola centre, and outside a statue of its founder a Mr Henderson, everybody visiting wanted to be photographed with this gentleman. Undoubtedly Coca Cola provides work for thousands or millions of people around the world making big contributions to the economies of many nations. That is good. What it did or does for the health of the world is another question?

In another part of the city is the CNN centre, filled with many visitors, it is one of the main news and media centres in the whole of the United States, holding great sway in all things connected with Media and has a big influence in what people receive and use.

Just across the spacious city of Atlanta is a very interesting street, Sweet Auburn Avenue, which is mostly empty except for Sweet Auburn Market and the home of Dr Martin Luther King Junior and his centre. He was the son of a Baptist Pastor. In later life he acted and spoke out but was  assassinated, he was silenced but his message wasn’t.

Sweet Auburn Market is a vibrant place of life, living and building community, people sharing together. The people there had freedom, true freedom. Auburn Avenue was one of the most vibrant streets in the whole of America where former slaves and their families worked at living, and living life as full as they could.  This place was only small but it was beautiful, with a vast amount of history in that one street.

Why does such a small street hold such immense significance? It was where Dr Martin Luther King Junior was born, nurtured and grew up, his father’s Manse is a museum to a great man, and just down the Avenue is the Dr Martin Luther King Junior Centre for learning, peace and justice.

This area of the city has its own Fire Station just down from the Manse, it is a place where Martin Luther as boy would go and play, perhaps to annoyance of the Fire Officers.

What he noticed was that the fire crews where all white and this left an impression on him and had great future influence on his life, why isn’t there any of us doing this work? Since when does the colour of a person’s skin influence the ability of a person to fight a fire or to save a life? The answer, is nothing. Providing a person is physically capable, competent and trained, then that’s what is required.

Why should the makeup of the fire crews influence his thinking? When he was older and educated he researched this across a wider area. What was quite apparent was there was lack of equal opportunity for people of all colours and ethnicity to have the opportunity to contribute to shape of life and the world.

The fire station was only small, six crew per shift I do believe. Bigger was not better in this particular case, it was better and more beautiful for it contributed to the germination and the  blossoming of a movement,  for “Civil Rights and Justice”.

Walking became a major feature of the movement and people would come and join in, rallies would be held and the small words of “I had a dream would become large, significant, important and memorable”.

There is no doubt Dr Martin Luther King Junior was an inspirational speaker captivating people, trying to break into the hearing of people who control and influence the make up of life, the people who give opportunity and can resource life. He had to start somewhere to work for justice for all, irrespective of colour or ethnicity.

Dr Martin Luther King Junior received a Christian upbringing and faith informed his life direction, work and purpose. In the gospels Jesus talks about faith as small a mustard seed, bigger is not always better, but sometimes the small significant things do grow to be bigger and better.

Our journey around the City of Atlanta was on public transport using the cities bus service, thoughts came to me about a small lady called Rosa Parks as I passed President Jimmy Carters Library, who tried to use a bus that also changed things, for the better, but that’s a letter for another time.

God bless,

Rev John.                                                             



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