Day 2 Atlanta, Georgia (Madi Keaton)

June 12th, 2016

Today, we travelled to Atlanta, Georgia and visited the MLK Center as well as Georgia State University to hear Dr. Glenn Eskew and Mrs. Juanita Abernathy speak. While these experiences were inspiring and will forever hold special places in my memory, it was an event that was not on the itinerary that made the biggest impact on me today.

While I was leaving the MLK Center to get back onto the bus, I met a homeless man named Leonard. As I talked to him, I learned that he was having health issues and was doing odd jobs to get by. I had never had a homeless man approach me before, let alone hold a conversation with me.

Driving through the outskirts of Atlanta, it seemed as though every patch of grass held a homeless person’s belongings. I noticed that, overwhelmingly, these people were black.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

New laws are not enough. The emergency we now face is economic, and it is a desperate and worsening situation. For the 35 million poor people in America…there is a kind of strangulation in the air. In our society it is a murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist.

Dr. King’s goals of desegregation and equal treatment have only been partially realized. While black and white people can eat in the same restaurants and drink from the same water fountains, blacks have been forced into a spiraling cycle of inequality and poverty that has not been fixed. How could America, one of the most advanced nations on earth, hold so many people without a house, job, or healthcare? And, if black people make up the majority of our homeless population, as well as our prison population, have we truly broken through racial barriers and into a period of equality?

I don’t think so.

The very thought of this has been on my mind all day. I had just finished walking through a museum heralding Dr. King as a heroic leader and listing his impressive achievements. And yet, it seemed as though enough had not been changed. I tried desperately to think of what I could do to help this issue, but thought of no grand ideas. I was no Dr. King.

But then I remembered something.

Towards the end of our conversation, I told Leonard that I was heading to Georgia State University next. He told me that the students there were always so kind to the homeless and that he was thankful to the college for educating such caring people.

Maybe I can’t find jobs and medical care and food for all of Atlanta’s homeless, but I certainly could show them the love of Christ. Maybe I couldn’t change the racial prejudices in people’s hearts, but I could examine and work on the prejudices in my own.

Everyone, even the great Dr. King, must start with these steps. And maybe, with concentrated effort and communication with other reconcilers, together we can finish the job that Dr. King started and build America into a better society with equal treatment and a bed for every man and woman.


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