Today is Martin Luther King Day. It is also my wedding anniversary. 18 years. These two notable days co-occurring automatically brings to my mind the same feeling: a deep reverence for people of integrity.
Dr. King brought a voice to ideas that changed the world. He stood as the face of a movement. My reverence for him is probably shared by many of you.
It may be less common, however, to feel the same admiration for a spouse. I married a man who is a remarkably principled person of integrity, so much so that he would never compare himself to someone like Dr. Martin Luther King and probably have trouble understanding the connection I feel. My husband Brian has a kind of quiet strength in his convictions. He commits himself to doing the right thing, always. It’s a quality that I have admired in him from the start. Sharing my life with a person of great integrity has led me to strive to do more of the right things, even when the right things are hard. And now through my work in the mental health field, I am often surrounded by similar people- who evoke the same deep admiration and respect and make me strive to create a better world. They go to great lengths to do what is right for the benefit of others, often with little concern about the personal costs.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” C.S. Lewis.
Every day people of integrity stand up and fight for a healthier world, simply because this fight is what is right. Standing up for change can be unpopular. Change is hard. Some people stand on stage in front of a crowd like Dr. Martin Luther King did, and they help the world see what we must improve. Many others carry out those insights quietly day to day at home. They become the change. Both of these acts of integrity are beautiful and necessary. Someone must lead like Dr. King, and others, many others, must be brave enough to follow that lead in every day life and courageously do the right thing, always.
There is a great deal of work to do in the arena of mental health today. In many ways, it parallels the other civil rights movements of the past and present. Advocates, usually unpaid volunteers, fight for funding, services, and fair treatment of vulnerable people who cannot always stand up for themselves. They do this because it is ethical and right, even though they may not personally be recognized or rewarded for the work they are doing. Mental health advocates fight tirelessly for the change that needs to come.
People of deep integrity stand up and lead, and others of equal integrity listen and lead the efforts to implement real change in everyday life. Devoted parents organize events, take the microphone to inspire, and pull out their checkbooks to give for organizations like NAMI, and parents also walk into treatment rooms with open minds and ask how to make things better day by day at home for their suffering kids of all ages. Brave patients seek care for themselves, and then find the strength to become advocates and leaders themselves. Victims share their stories to teach us all.
The world gets better when people of integrity have the strength and courage to move forward together, even when the work is long and difficult to carry out. On Martin Luther King Day, let us all act on the strength of our convictions and stand up for a better world, whether we stand at the front of the crowd or quietly live out change in our everyday lives.