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Frozen Fingers, Warmed Heart

"A Day On, Not A Day Off" celebrates the bright spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So much about Monday's "A Day On, Not a Day Off" celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday warmed my heart.

Good thing, too, because my hands were frozen. I walked from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church to the Farmington Community Library Main Library without my gloves, which are currently missing in action. But I hardly noticed the cold. My heart had been warmed with a chorus of "Lean on Me" at the church, led by Mark Springer, deacon at Servant Church of St. Alexander, on guitar.

"Lean on Me" is what Monday was all about, he said. The event co-chair, Tanji Grant, talked about one four-letter word that defined the day for her.

"It's love," she said. "Have love in your heart, and you will love others."

The theme of love and service to others carried through the morning, from the love of music expressed by East Middle School's outstanding choir to U.S. Rep. Gary Peters' comments about the national conversation in the wake of the Jan. 8 assassination attempt in Tucson, AZ, that left six people dead, including 9-year-old Christina Green, and a dozen wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"There's been a lot of talk about the vitriol," Peters said, "but when we think about how bad it is today, it was much worse in (King's) time." Peters noted that even after King had been stabbed in the chest during a 1958 appearance in Harlem, NY, "He still marched for peace."

That persistence, that patience was also reflected in the life of legendary bluesman Josh White, whose son Josh White Jr. keynoted the event. He talked about the terrible discrimination his father suffered, the lynching his father witnessed as a child.

Neither King nor his father let the adversity they experienced taint their children's view of the world, he added.

"We have to walk with Martin's heart," White said, "and it's not easy. I'm thanking Martin Luther King and my father for putting that in my life, and then me giving it to my children and my grandchildren."

I thought about that legacy of peace as I talked with the youngest of Monday's walkers, 3-year-old James Johnson, and (arguably) the oldest person in attendance at the library, Ed Hodges, who at almost 91 still ventured out in the cold to honor King's life. 

And I realized a simple truth: There's just not a day cold enough to chill his bright spirit.

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