Diving competition took us to Atlanta, Georgia several years ago. We watched multiple sessions of diving, visited Olympic Park, caught up with old friends, and consumed too many calories (thank you, chicken and waffles). Of all the wonderful experiences on that trip, there was one that stood out among the rest.
During a break in competition, we took the kids to the King Center. This was a spontaneous decision, so I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the facility. No well thought out plans, just a couple of hours to take in a bit of rich history. That thought seems far too casual now that I look back.
The first thing we encountered upon stepping onto the property was the Civil Rights Walk of Fame. It is a promenade featuring the foot impressions of some of the great leaders in the movement. We lingered slowly as we read names and looked at their shoe impressions. Without hesitation, I placed my foot on Dr. Maya Angelou’s impression, then Thurgood Marshall’s, and others.
Stepping into the impressions of people that led the way through injustice and discrimination was soul-searing. As I placed my foot inside a hero’s impression, I felt the courage to be a better version of myself and the permission to fight for the things that mattered outside of my own interests. It was solemn and empowering all at once.
Blaze a trail. Walk a mile in my shoes. We often throw these phrases around, but do we really take the time to consider what that means? Blaze a trail for yourself or for the common good? The people memorialized along that pathway were standing for the greater good. They were fighting because they didn’t think anyone else should have to walk a mile in their shoes; their experience.
As we finished the walk of fame and headed toward the visitor’s center, I thought about both phrases. Sometimes blazing a trail is necessary, but other times there’s great value in stepping into the shoes that have gone before you. Both require tenacity and strength. Both will be met with criticism and naysayers. Both are necessary in different seasons.
I walked back to the car with a lump in my throat and deep gratitude in my soul. I wanted to be a better version of myself. I felt the nudge to use my strengths to create space at the table for those that felt marginalized and forgotten. All this because someone had a dream, a vision for a better community, and an unwavering hope.
There is freedom to step into the deep impressions of those that have already blazed a trail. We are better when we take the time to walk a mile in someone else’s reality.
Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King Jr.
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