I’ve been thinking this week of an episode of StoryCorps from a few years ago. StoryCorps, you may know, is a national nonprofit that records conversations between two people and then archives them in the Library of Congress. You can go to their website and listen to thousands of conversations between ordinary folks—family members, friends—sharing about the tender moments of their lives.
This particular interview was between nine-year old Aiden Sykes and his father Albert, and was recorded in Jackson, MS. To start the interview, Aiden asked his dad if he remembered what was going through his head when he first saw him? “I remember when the doctor pulled you out, the first thing I thought was that he was being too rough with you,” his dad laughed. But then the doctor handed little Aiden to him and said, “Here’s your baby.”
Albert said it was the proudest moment of his life, because “it was like looking at a blank canvas…imagining what you want that painting to look like at the end, but also knowing you can’t control the paint strokes.” But there was also some fear, he shared with his son. He told him he’s seen the statistics that tell us “black boys born after the year 2002 have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison.” Aiden and his other two brothers are all black and born after 2002.
Aiden asked his dad why he takes him to protests so much? Albert said it’s because he wants him “to see what it looks like when people come together, but also that you understand that it’s not just about people that are familiar to you. It’s about everybody.”
He asked his son if he knew the work Martin Luther King was doing was for everybody and not just for black people? Aiden said that he did. “So that’s how you gotta think,” his father told him. “If you decide that you wanna be a cab driver, then you gotta be the most impactful cab driver that you can possibly be.”
The interview ended with Aiden asking his father what his dreams were for him. “My dream is for you to live out your dreams,” Albert told his son. “There’s an old proverb that talks about when children are born, children come out with their fists closed because that’s where they keep all their gifts. And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold, because you’re learning to release your gifts to the world. And so, for the rest of your life,” he told his son, “I wanna see you live with your hands unfolded.”
Church, isn’t this it? Isn’t this what we’re called to do and who we’re called to be? People who live with their hands unfolded.
Live with your hands unfolded so that your gifts may be released into the world.
Live with your hands unfolded so that they can’t become a fist.
Live with your hands unfolded, not simply so your gifts can be released, but so that the gifts of others can be received.
Live with your hands unfolded and your arms open, and your eyes forward, so that you might see the world and the people in front of you. Because it’s only when we’re in this position that our hearts are fully exposed.
When I meditate on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, it will be on how he lived this posture out in so many ways. And how he did it for all of us. And I want to make sure my sons know that, too.