I got up at nine o'clock this morning. That's two hours earlier than I have woken up in the past month. Lately, waking up has been a gradual process in which it begins with me lying in bed with my eyes closed, then turning on the TV, watching for an hour, then, if I'm having a particularly productive day, getting out of bed around 11. But today was the first day of classes.
I make it out of the shower with a few minutes left before I'm supposed to be at class, but I live so close, I'm sure I can make it. I throw on a sweater and the jeans i wore yesterday, carrying my jacket in my arm (no time to put it on) and head out the door. The sidewalks are empty, but I don't seem to take notice. My attention is elsewhere, as I ponder the new faces I will meet in class.
I'm taking a beginner French course, and I hadn't realized until this morning that I was probably going to be in class with a group of people who are, on average, three years younger than me. My feelings, being mixed-- am I "that old guy" or that "cool older guy"-- distract me until I get to the door of Phillips Hall.
The door is locked. "Huh?" I haven't a clue as to why classes would be cancelled. I try another door. Locked. I am fairly confused, and try every other door before I understand that there are no classes today.
So I run over to my computer, and I open up the university's homepage, and low and behold: It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (Though at first, I didn't connect it as a national holiday) This experience, although harsh on my ears, as they almost froze off, has given me a good moment in which to reflect on the meaning behind this day.
It's not simply a day in which to honor a man. But rather, a day in which to honor an idea. The idea that none of us are inherently better than anyone else. That regardless of what you look like, you deserve as much respect as the next person. That you are entitled to that respect, as a member of the human race.
And so I realize, that this holiday is not like other holidays. There are no gifts to give, no trees to decorate, no candles to light. There is no feast and you don't have to fast. Today is a day to reflect.
To reflect on the oppurtunities you have as a human being. To be thankful for the ability to walk down the street without being ridiculed. To be thankful for a more integrated society with less violence, and less hate. To realize the hardships we must sometimes go through in order to come out the other end better than we were before. In this sense, the fight for civil rights can be a lesson for our daily lives.
Hard work and struggle are the predecessor to any change and/or reward. We cannot expect to make giant leaps in a day. And without persistence and courage, we cannot move forward. We must be strong in order to attain those goals we know belong to us.
So on your day off today, relax, but also, reflect. On the life of MLK Jr. On the civil rights movement. On the serious hardships that mankind can endure, and move past. And take these lessons, and use them for good.
Oh, and don't go to class.