This week we celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. As I was reflecting on the significance of Dr. King’s life, I was struck by his commitment to confront the injustice of racial inequality exclusively through non-violent means. This approach was embraced in spite of the movement being the object of considerable violence. He himself was savagely slain. No one was spared the hatred, including some innocent children who perished in the Birmingham church bombing. Retaliation would have been easy to justify, but rather the “weapon” chosen by the civil rights movement was shear conviction and determination to confront hatred with non-violence, knowing full well that some would bear the ultimate sacrifice.
Violence has become a pervasive element of our society and culture, manifested in many ways, some blatant others less obvious. When I consider the lives of the many children, youth, and families we serve I can not help but be struck by the violence that they have experienced. The stories, in some instances, are horrific and the reaction visceral as we deal with piecing back together children and families who have been torn apart by brutal acts of neglect and abuse, both physical and emotional.
Certainly justice demands punishment and consequences for the perpetrators. Although as satisfying as that may be as with the civil rights movement, that is not the remedy to the injustice, rather only the consequence for the violence. Something more is needed to bring about change. This is where the dream of nonviolence comes to play.
For us at Hillsides we have a dream for those we serve– a vision of creating lasting change in lives by restoring hope and freeing them from harm. It is a realistic hope that healing can come about, well-being can once again be established, and a stable caring relationship will serve as the foundation for a successful future.
In the past year we have embarked in a process of creating a heightened awareness of how trauma impacts the lives of all we serve. Like anything that is ubiquitous, it is easy to underestimate the subtle impact of trauma in our lives and how unwittingly we contribute to further traumatizing those who are so vulnerable.
It is very challenging to maintain such a heightened sense of awareness, but gradually it is helping us to create a better environment for both clients and staff, one that effectively mitigates the impact of trauma and restores hope.
Dreams are important because they have the ability to motivate and, therefore, create lasting change. The Martin Luther King Day celebrations invite us to embrace the dream of lives freed from violence and inspire us to devote all our energies to realizing this great vision.