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A Simple Dream (Martin Luther King Day)

            It’s easy to forget that old adage that reminds us how it is the simple things that bring us the most comfort and joy in life.  I was in that state of forgetfulness as I pulled into McDonalds after a morning of tests at the VA hospital.  Such visits always remind me of the Vietnams of life, past and present. It was time to get out of a long morning of traffic and take a break.  I, for one, typically do not expect to walk into McDonalds and have a spiritual experience.

            There I was, standing at the ordering counter in the pre-lunch crowd, after having ordered the healthiest sandwich available and a coffee – expecting nothing more than some quick nourishment to hold me over until the next meal. After the manager super-sized my senior coffee (did I look tired?), the lady behind the counter followed her quick routine of placing the eat-in tray in front of me as I waited for my order. It was then; the feeling began to come over me.

            Almost as quickly as the uplifting refrains of Bob Marley’s song, One Love, began playing in my head, I noticed the paper placemat in the tray.  There, in the center of the mat, was a picture of Martin Luther King, visible through a prominent graphic of the word “ONE” followed by the word, “Love.”  One Love. Deeply moved, I suddenly began to feel a giddy, incipient sense of epiphany sweeping through me.  The song continued to play in my head as I struggled to compose myself while waiting for fast food. “One Love! One Heart! Let's get together and feel all right.”

            Here, on my placemat was a commercial – or not a commercial.  It was a non-commercial message about something that really matters.  Simple.  One Love.  Wasn’t that what Dr. King’s dream was all about?  Reflexively, I reached for the sandwich before she could put it onto the placemat and took an empty table among the early-lunch crowd.

            Regaining my composure, I ate and struggled to find some insight behind my emotions.  Nearby, children laughed and spoke excitedly in Spanish.  It was a friendly atmosphere as I noticed this group of people of different ethnic groups and colors who had congregated for this brief interlude before going on about their personal lives. It seemed hard to believe that as recently as a period earlier in my lifetime, the idea of all people being more alike than their differences was buried under the ignorance of fearing and hating those who seemed different from us.  How much we had deprived ourselves, not celebrating our diversity!  What could be simpler than a dream for the realization of the unity underlying the human experience? That was it!  The insight swept over me in a wave.  They got it!  We got it!  McDonalds got it.  Enough of us are getting it to give us cause for hope that we shall wake up in this garden of humanity someday and the dream will be real.

            “One Love. One Heart.  Let’s get together and feel alright.”   Simple.  One Dream.  Nourishment of an unexpected kind from an unexpected source.  I ate my sandwich and drank my coffee, but I took a special leftover home with me.  The paper placemat was posted under the magnets on my refrigerator – a simple reminder.

Granville Angell

©2004 by Granville Angell (Unedited, non-commercial distribution, with credit, authorized)

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