Sunday, January 16, 2005
The day that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, John Evans decided to make a lot of money.
He had worked for Dr. King for ten years. He got himself a real job, saved, invested against conventional wisdom -- and he got rich. In three years and ten months he had enough money. He quit.He bought land by a state road in a southern state, hired a sculptor, and set about building his monument to Martin Luther King. He didn't ask for help while he was building it because he knew in his heart that it had to be done in a particular way, and other people would want to discuss, compromise. He told no one else about it at all, because he didn't want words and pictures to make the monument invisible to people before they saw it.
Because money can buy more than we usually ask it to buy, the monument now exists in its own way and is sometimes seen.
The place looks like a roadside park, and most people who stop to use the pump and the picnic tables and then drive on, but some take the time to wander around, and a few of these walk over the little hill in the back.
Behind the hill this is what they see.
There are fifteen life-size marble people. They're standing in a circle. They're holding hands. They're not up on a pedestal; their feet are in the grass. They're dressed in jeans and work shirts, suits, dresses, overalls. Their mouths are open; they're saying something. There are letters bedded into the grass in the middle of the circle. They read, We Shall Overcome.
But the circle is not unbroken. There is room between two of the people who have their hands open and reach out, but no one is holding them.
Sometimes someone who finds the memorial answers their invitation and comes forward to take their hands. You hold the hands of John's lost friends, and you look across the circle, and Martin Luther King looks back at you. John's sculptor friend did Dr. King well, especially his eyes.
When the monument was finished, John Evans understood that it wasn't in memory of Dr. King. It was in memory of one remembered moment in ten years when John had really believed in the dream, and of the many times when he had wanted so much to believe.
John sometimes goes to sit in one of the trees near the statues. You can't see him through the leaves. He waits for one of the visitors from the road to see the memorial, to see what it was like (what he was like). To believe.
It's a very quiet revival meeting, but John Evans hasn't liked noise much since he heard the shot.
This was written almost 30 years ago by Anne Herbert. She gave me permission years ago to tell the story to people; I hope it's OK to post it here. It is copyrighted in her name. I am sure the words have changed a little as I've been telling it, and so this falls short of what she wrote.
She wanted to let people know that it is fiction. But she said that people don't believe her when she says so. She said, I will tell you where the Martin Luther King memorial is. It's in a place where you're standing in a circle touching hands with people you once hated, standing equal with people you once thought were better or less than you, talking with people it's against the rules even to talk to. And to find it, you need love and courage without end.
I see in my mind’s eye lots of broken circles waiting to be closed. Thanks again.