When your parents are extreme hoarders, you learn unbelievable things about them after they’re gone because nothing ever gets thrown away. One must sift through everything because in the endless sea of empty Kleenex boxes, cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and shards of underwear kept in the bottom of bedroom drawers unopened for decades, one will find photographs, love letters, medical histories, records of past lives lived, and, if one is lucky, thousands of dollars in uncashed checks from the I.R.S.
Some things one comes upon are unsettling, and thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. yesterday brought the following letter I found going through my parents’ things after their deaths to mind.
My mother’s parents were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Knight Taylor, and here is an example of what they had to endure during a train trip down South at the turn of the last century:
When I think about how far we’ve come, regardless of how much farther we still need to go, it is considerable. And often things of this nature seem to happen to other people, not to us. When it does happen to us or to members of our families, it suddenly hits hard: it can happen to any of us at anytime in the most unsuspecting of locales or situations. No one is immune to the barbs of injustice and dehumanization, no matter what color, creed, or ethnicity. History tends to repeat itself and is cyclic, and because of this we can never become complacent as a people. Dr. King knew this and was successful taking us to where we currently are on our quest for evolution, enlightenment, and acceptance. He died for what he believed, and we owe it to him and to ourselves to keep going and keep the fires of hope, change, and forward motion burning.
Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With” 1964