Martin. Cole is surprisingly casual about Martin. As though they are close friends, compatriots and compadres. He almost always uses only the given name, adding on the others only for impact.
It started in kindergarten, when the class did a section on great Americans. Cole came home talking about Martin and his dream. He drew pictures and decorations to celebrate Martin's Birthday, marked it on the calendar, and expounded on The Dream to whoever would listen.
We were amused by this, and impressed at his teacher for making such an impression.
Then, he came home with a picture of George Washington that he had colored... and Mr. Washington had dark skin. We were even more amused. Cole would describe in disbelief the segregation of past years, but add a modern slant to it:
"I mean Mommy, come on. Can you believe there used to be rule about hanging out with people who had different skin color?! It's just skin! That is so crazy."
In his world, it could only be described as crazy. Because growing up in the 00's in a major metro county, the life experience of a young Southern boy is decidedly different. In his classroom he sits side by side with children of Japanese descent, South American, Scandinavian, African-American, plain old American and everything in between. He knows the difference between an American Indian and an Indian from the Asian subcontinent - because he has friends that are Asian-Indian. The eyes of a seven year old with this experience look out on the world with no bias. It is refreshing.
When I was about 8, I was in love with the song We Are The World. I had Mom get the sheet music, and I played my little heart out, trying to learn that song on the piano and to sing along.
"We are the world...we are the children... we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving. There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives... it's true we make a better day just you & me."
Remembering the lyrics brings me back to those times of certain hope and utter belief that many things could be set to right. And I see it echoed in Cole as he walks a world where the divisions of life and race will not mean what they meant when I was a child. And to slough it off as childish naivete is to miss the beauty of change a generation brings.
How do you question the insight of a child that hears about Barack Obama's election, and though we had never discussed the historic impact of that outcome, immediately smiles up at me and says "Mom. This is just what Martin wanted." As though the voice of history whispered in his small heart.
Well. It is a good day for hope and change, and for remembering what Martin wanted. As we learn from these small, wise ones that it is indeed the content of character that proves a man or woman, we can't help but walk alongside change. Recognizing a child's open heart to all is the first step. And it will be the children and their choice to move into a time where they do in fact make a better day.
The continued lyrics of We Are The World are potent, and these many years later have been echoed in the chant of last fall - Change.
We can't go on
Pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We are all a part of God's great big family...
...When you're down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe
There's no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well, let us realize
That a change will only come
When we stand together as one...