I am a praying person. I’m also a marching person.


by Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I was in attendance last Monday, January 15, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March from the Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street. Dozens of people of many races, ages, and religions gathered in the chilly rain. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that my own children also had little storm clouds over their heads. They could have been at home in their pajamas, enjoying a day off from school. But their parents had bundled them up and dragged them into the weather. Not even the promise of hot chocolate, the sacred beverage, could lighten their spirits.

Thankfully, the rally began with brief remarks and then music. A young man offered a gorgeous version of Sam Cooke’s famous song. “It’s been a long, long time, but I know a change is gonna come!” My kids perked up.

Written in 1964, just months before Cooke’s untimely death and the infamous “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, the song has been repeated innumerable times at rallies, whether as relatively small as ours or at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of Barak Obama. As Cooke’s brother told Vanity Fair in an article about the song, “Sam’s music don’t get old.”

The relevance of the music became resoundingly clear to me when a truck roared past the crowd on Franklin Street and the driver stuck his middle finger in the air. What a jerk! From the stage, a speaker responded graciously, “We shall pray for him!”

I am a praying person. I’m also a marching person. I think that our actions should align with our beliefs. And I hope to pass that along to my kids, despite their own protests! Change will not come simply with the passing of time. Change comes with the will of the people. Change comes when we allow empathy to soften our sharp opinions and compassion to open our minds.

I wonder if that driver had ever been to a march for civil rights. I wonder if he knew Martin’s dream or Sam’s song. I wonder if such words by such moral models might have made a difference in his attitude. That is my prayer for him and others who express such hostility, whether publicly or privately, to justice and equity.

I know that, later that day, my children were singing up in our playroom. They didn’t have the tune or the words exactly right, but their version sounded like a prayer to me: “We know it’s been a long time, but change is here.”

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church, author of seven books, and a frequent contributor to many newspapers, magazines, and journals.

-Andrew Taylor-Troutman (taylortroutman@yahoo.com)

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