Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. January 20, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:04 AM
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A student watches a video about Martin Luther King Jr. at the “Selma to Montgomery Marching Along the Voting Rights Trail” exhibit at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, in April 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

AS I FINISHED MY BOWL of oatmeal and blueberries this morning, I watched a portion of Good Morning America. A young boy talked about a program he started, Books N Bros, aimed at “empowering boys, promoting literacy, and bringing awareness to African American literature.”

Sidney’s own challenges—specifically with stuttering and bullying—led him to seek refuge in reading. Now he’s using those negative experiences to make a difference by connecting boys to books. His efforts equal love in action, following the example of Martin Luther King Jr.

King rallied and worked for equality on a national stage. I admire his determination, his strength, his hopes, his dreams to make a positive change in this country. We’ve come a long ways. But much still needs to be achieved in racial and other equality.

 

Visitors could photograph themselves and express their thoughts, as shown here in this Polaroid image posted at the “Selma” exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2015..

 

While we need leaders like King and young Sidney to publicly champion for change, we, too, must get involved. It takes all of us, from small towns to major metropolitan areas, to stand up, to speak up, to do something, not just sit there.

So how do we accomplish that? Assess your strengths—because we all have them—and then use them in a positive way. For me, writing and photography prove a powerful tool to connect, to uplift, to inform and more. Words matter. They can help or they can hurt, empower or diminish, support or break down. I recognize the responsibilities I carry as a writer. And as a photographer.

I’ve also been gifted with the ability to listen, a skill that seems more and more a rarity in a seemingly me-centered world. But our family, our friends, our neighbors, even strangers, need us to listen. Just listen. Not turn the conversation to ourselves and our experiences and challenges, but to stay focused on the person talking to us. Them. Not us.

I can’t write enough about the need for compassion. The challenges of life—and I’ve experienced plenty—have made me a stronger and more empathetic person. Some good emerges from every difficulty, although we can’t always see that when we are in the thick of whatever.

Like young book-loving Sidney, I was bullied as a child. Because of that, I advocate kindness. If we all were just a little kinder to one another, not talking at or over others, we would all better understand the perspectives and experiences we bring to conversations. In other words, listen. There’s that word again.

 

Photographed in August 2018 in a storefront window of a business in downtown Faribault, Minnesota. I’ve never forgotten this powerful message posted in my community. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

Today and every day, I hope you will take to heart the many inspiring words of Martin Luther King Jr. and live those words. Through your conversations and your actions.

TELL ME: I’d like to hear how King’s words have inspired you.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

10 Responses to “In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.”

  1. I have learned that will all walk in our own shoes and that we all have our own stories and experiences. Kindness, empathy and caring. Listening, supporting, and communicating and connecting to have that sense of belonging. We all want to be heard as well as liked if not loved. Words as well as actions can speak volumes and once it is said or done it cannot be taken back and have to be aware of that. Great Post today – made me stop and think and ponder. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  2. Larry Says:

    Attended mlk breakfast at ssc today. Here in Faribault! Poetry,food, songs! Great people. Very inspirational. “No one is free until we are all free.”

    Oh, and did I mention food. There was food too.

  3. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Well said, Audrey. My word for the year is listen. Your post reminded me to keep it in the forefront. I loved the story of Sidney; hopefully he’s the future of compassion.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    It’s always good to be reminded we need to listen to one another and be kind to everyone. Everyone is fighting some battle. I attended a Martin Luther King Celebration service at our church this evening. Speakers and music. It was well attended.

  5. Susan Ready Says:

    What a well written post. Indeed you are a good listener and these were my favorite lines of of your blog that encourage being proactive-thanks for the reminders.
    Assess your strengths—because we all have them—and then use them in a positive way. For me, writing and photography prove a powerful tool to connect, to uplift, to inform and more. Words matter. They can help or they can hurt, empower or diminish, support or break down. I recognize the responsibilities I carry as a writer. And as a photographer.


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