Every year, I set aside an afternoon to read and reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
Dr. King acknowledges that the letter is a long letter, but makes this great observation: "What else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?"
In this year's reading, several things jumped out to me, but I'd like to share one of them here.
For those who have read the Letter, have you noticed the strength of Dr. King's level-headed, reasoned arguments? He makes the case for his involvement in Birmingham, for direct action, for breaking unjust laws, and for the church's involvement in desegregation and the racial conversation.
In the midst of such a difficult environment and such an emotionally charged situation, Dr. King's measured mountain of arguments demonstrated his remarkable desire to connect with his readers, rather than to shame them. I wish I had his discipline.
All too often, I - and people in my generation - get so wound up and wounded that we're unable to have real conversations or make meaningful arguments. We're dismissed. And though our causes are just, our voices are not truly heard.
It's not enough for our generation to speak more loudly. We must also make our case well if change is going to happen.
And, of course, this presents a challenge. The loudest voices get the attention, even if they aren't truly heard. Quiet, gentle, reasoned arguments don't get retweeted.
We need to make an effort to seek out those voices, listen to them and share them as we can.