Tales From a Rural Route: Martin Luther King Jr and the Twins

I quit my job with the US Postal Service to become a stay-at-home dad for my twin girls. From the time they were old enough to ask, “Why, Daddy?” I’ve done my best to always answer their questions, no matter the topic.

One night, while my wife was out of town on a business trip, I took the Twins to the Bristol for dinner. The waitress offered the girls crayons and coloring paper. It happened to be Martin Luther King Day and the coloring book sheets were of Dr. King. The twins were around five years old and while they worked hard to color  between the lines, they asked me who it was they were coloring. I told them he was a minister who worked to change the world and make it better for all people, especially people of color.

I explained how when I was born there were restaurants where people of color were not allowed to eat, water fountains where they were not able to quench their thirst, and hotels where they were not able to rent a room for the night, simply because of the color of their skin.

You would have thought I was telling a tale of a fantasy world and I pointed out things changed because of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other people who worked for equality for all people. Then they asked me what happened to him, was he still living? Having recently lost a family member, they were constantly curious about how people may have died. I gave them an overview of how Dr. King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. When they asked why I told them James Earl Ray didn’t want to see the changes Dr. King worked so hard to bring about. I told them Ray was convicted of the murder and spent the rest of his life in jail and one of the reasons we celebrate Martin Luther King Day is because he was willing to risk his life to make the life of others better.

Shortly before our meal arrived, the waitress, a good friend of ours, took the girls to the bathroom. While they were gone, an elderly couple at the next table said they’d been listening to our discussion and wanted to know if I thought the girls understood what I’d been telling them and I responded by saying I thought it better to tell them the truth and it wasn’t important if the girls remembered all the dates and the names, but the big picture.

When the girls returned to the table, I asked them, “Girls, was Martin Luther King, Jr. a good guy or a bad guy?”

“A good guy.”

“James Earl Ray, good guy or a bad guy?”

“Bad Guy.”

“And why did Ray murder Martin Luther King?”

“Because he wanted to change things and make it better for people who didn’t look like us.”

I glanced over at the couple and they raised their wine glasses in acknowledgment.

I have many memories of my twins I will always remember. This is one of my favorites. Approaching Martin Luther King’s birthday takes me back to a table, my girls coloring furiously and the chance I got to actually teach them something important.

How cool is that?


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