Considering Clouds on MLK Day

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the 1963 March on Washington.

Years ago I was on a flight with my younger daughter who was five at the time. She was looking out with wonder over a blanket of clouds below us.

“We don’t look like clouds,” I said, “but we are all made mostly from clouds.”

She turned to see if I was serious. “It’s true,” I insisted. “We are made mostly of water. That water started out as clouds that then turned to rain. The rain watered the plants we eat and gave us the fresh water we drink.”

I thought about that conversation later when I saw the words etched on the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. They were words he wrote from a jail in Birmingham in 1963:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Isn’t this what Jesus taught? “Whatever you do, even to the very least, you do it to me,” he said.

Just as clouds and human beings share a common substance, so too are all our individual choices part of a common moral fabric. When we feed the hungry, Jesus says, we’re feeding him. When we visit a prisoner, we’re visiting Jesus.

This is why it should matter to us if even a single child in Haiti is trapped in slavery, or even one family in the United States is living on the streets, or if the most powerful political leader in the world denigrates even one small country.

Beyond the shock or pity we may feel, we are morally present in that child, that family, that country. Some part of us is enslaved as long as that child is enslaved. Some part of us is homeless as long as that family is homeless. Some part of us is humiliated when the dignity of people is denigrated.

To struggle for that child’s freedom, that family’s well being, and that people’s dignity is to struggle for our own freedom, our own well-being, our own dignity.

To cultivate this kind of awareness and connection in Haiti, we bring thousands of ordinary Haitians together in small groups to talk and listen to one another about the ways they may be hurting one another, often without knowing it. They may focus on child abuse or child slavery, violence against women and girls, or how impoverished children are excluded from the opportunity to go to school.

Over the months they move from greater awareness, reconciliation, and healing to a place where they are seeing the attitudes and systems that perpetuate the hurt and injustice, and they begin to organize and to take action to change those systems. It is moving to see, for example, people who once trafficked or enslaved children become passionate advocates for the rights of children.

From 2010 to 2017, nearly 40,000 Haitians participated in our Child Rights Training, and another 60,000 have taken part in training to prevent violence against women and girls. Many have gone on to form local Child Protection Brigades that work on the front lines in the struggle against child slavery, or have become grassroots advocates dedicated to balancing power between women and men.

In both urban and rural communities, the demand for these training are huge, so our goal is to continue to expand them throughout Haiti.

Flying through the clouds that day, my daughter pondered a miracle—our bodies are mostly collections of distant and disparate clouds coalesced into rainwater and infused into living flesh.

It is no less a miracle that the decision you make to support this work and the engagement of the thousands we work with in Haiti coalesce into freedom and justice for some of our world’s most vulnerable. Seeing this, today as we honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we can say with the prophet Isaiah, “let the clouds burst open and justice rain down.”

Thank you for all you do to challenge injustice and promote human dignity, especially for the “least of these.”

With deep gratitude,
David Diggs, Director & Co-Founder
Beyond Borders