In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men (sic) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.
–The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
There is an amazing scene in the movie Selma where Martin Luther King Jr. phones gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the middle of the night. It’s 1964; the 16th St. Baptist Church has been bombed by the Ku Klux Klan and four little girls killed in the explosion. The Civil Rights Movement is facing obstruction from elected leaders on key issues. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is trying to discredit Dr. King by disrupting his marriage. Shaken and unable to sleep due to mounting pressures and stress, Dr. King calls Mahalia Jackson and asks her to sing; to “share the Lord’s voice” with him.
Among the many powerful moments in the film, this one stood out. First, imagine what it must have been like to be able to make an individual call to Mahalia Jackson when in need of spiritual renewal! Second, and more significantly, the scene captured beautifully how relationships support advocacy and the fight for change. In work that can be overwhelming, that small moment reflected the importance of depending on one another’s presence, skills and gifts.
We need each other as we walk in faith. Especially when times are hard, and we can’t see a way forward. What a comfort it is to know that even a historic leader like Dr. King was sustained in his work by the individual strengths of those around him. It reminds us that we all have something to offer one another as we seek to know God’s will and act on it. Understanding our interconnectedness begets working on behalf of our interconnectedness, as Dr. King states so clearly in the quotation above. When embracing that process, we are stronger together.
It’s unknown whether the late-night call depicted in Selma actually happened, but it might have. The two great souls involved were friends as well as comrades in nonviolent resistance. And the song she offered to him? His favorite, by all accounts: Take My Hand, Precious Lord. Here’s a link, in case you need some divine inspiration, too.
Onward in faith.