A couple of years ago, the movie “Selma” introduced America to a few heroes of the civil rights movement whose names aren’t well-known. And we also saw the hundreds of people walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama whose names we will never know.
That’s important. Movements are about ideas that call out thousands to participate who will never be storied and sung.
The famous leader of the civil rights movement was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesser known at the time was John Lewis, Lewis, later a legendary congressman, was one of the hundreds who walked across Pettus Bridge. A very young man, he led the way and was brutally cut down. Now, after his recent death, there’s a movement in Alabama to rename that bridge in Selma in his honor.
But he wasn’t the only hero on that bridge that day. Hundreds more were there, beaten down, and we don’t know their names. Because that’s what movements are made of.
And there were even more who didn’t do anything “heroic”.
I’ve been thinking about the man who cut Dr. King’s grass. Dr. King had a house and a family. But he was rarely home. I can’t find that man’s name: he may only exist figuratively. But I’ll bet he was real. Because he was essential, he must have been real. Someone must have realized that his contribution to the civil rights Mission was to help out in a small, unceremonious way. Someone who noticed that Dr. King glanced at his yard and frowned. Someone who noticed that Coretta had more than enough to do, and the kids were too young to mow.
Someone who knew that little distractions can grow into conflict and create serious barriers to the work. Someone- we don’t know his name- headed that problem off.
Someone who knew that cutting the grass- like other someones doing the dishes, cuddling the kids, or cleaning the church- was a building-block in service to the Mission and to God. We don’t know his name, or the names of the hundreds. They aren’t storied and sung like Lewis and King. But they were on Mission, too, just as sure as speaking truth to power in front of the cameras to the world.