View from the Pew

View from the Pew

This tribute to Martin Luther King Day, though belated, is good for all time.  It’s a transcript from the radio program, This American Life, told by Jack Hitt.  (Episode 605, “Kid Logic” from December 16, 2016.)

Well, it all began at Christmas two years ago, when my daughter was four years old.  And it was the first time that she had ever asked about what did this holiday mean.  And so I explained to her that this was celebrating the birth of Jesus.  And she wanted to know more about that.  And we went out and bought a kid’s Bible and had these readings at night.  She loved them, wanted to know everything about Jesus.   So we read a lot about his birth and about his teaching, and she would ask constantly what that phrase was.  And I would explain to her that it was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  And we would talk about those old words and what all that meant, you know?  And then one day, we were driving past a big church and out front was an enormous crucifix.  She said, “Who it that?”  And I guess I’d never really told that part of the story.  So I had this sort of “Yeah, oh, well, that’s Jesus.  And I forgot to tell you the ending.  Yeah, well, he ran afoul of the Roman government.”  This message that he had  was so radical and unnerving to the prevailing authorities at the time that they had to kill him.  They came to the conclusion that he would have to die.  That message was too troublesome.  It was about a month later after that Christmas.  We’d gone through the whole story of what Christmas meant, and it was mid-January.  And her Preschool celebrated the same holidays as the local schools.  So  Martin Luther King Day was off.  So I knocked off work that day, and I decided we’d play and I’d take her out to lunch.  And we were sitting in there, and right on the table where we happened to plop down was the art section of the local newspaper.  And there, big as life, was a huge drawing by a 10-year-old kid in the local schools of Martin Luther King.  And she said, “Who’s that?”  And I said, “Well, as it happens, that’s Martin Luther King.  And he’s why you’re not in school today.  So we’re celebrating his birthday.  This is the day we celebrate his life.”  And she said, “So who was he?”  And I said, “Well, he was a preacher.”  And she looks at me and goes, “For Jesus?”  And I said, “Yeah.  Yeah, actually, he was.  But there was another thing that he was really famous for, which is that he had a message.”  And you’re trying to say this to a four-year-old.  This is the first time they ever hear anything, so you’re just very careful about how you phrase everything.  So I said, “Well, yeah, he was a preacher and he had a message.”  So she said, “What was his message?”  And I said, “Well, he said that you should treat everybody the same no matter what they look like.”  And she thought about that for a minute.  And she said “Well, that’s what Jesus said.”  And I said, “Yeah, I guess it is.  I never thought of it that way, but yeah.”  And that is sort of like, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  And she thought for a minute and looked up at me and said, “Did they kill him too?”









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