Martin Luther King Jr. Day passed in the United States last week.
Many of my Canadian friends also took the time to honour him by sharing his quotes and images on social media.
Of all the quotes that I stumbled upon this past week, I think this one resonated with me the most.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
My life is really, really good. I am enormously grateful for a simple life, a roof over my head, the food I can eat (not just because I can afford the ingredients but because I have the physical health and capacity to cook, eat and digest my meals).
I have friends and family who care about me and I enjoy my career and interests. I am hard-pressed to find injustice in my little bubble.
But it exists somewhere outside my safe walls.
Maybe even on the same street in another home where someone might be being abused. Maybe farther down the road at the school where a child is being bullied. Maybe in another part of town, something wrong is happening to another human being.
MLK Jr.’s words remind me that, although I live a life of privilege, I must not forget that if there is any kind of injustice anywhere, then this whole idea of justice, safety, comfort… it stands on shaky ground.
Maybe you’ve heard the expression: if it happens to one person, it happens to all of us. It’s the same idea.
Girls and women being denied education in Kenya because of some kind of lack might not affect me directly but it affects our global consciousness, it affects the Kenyan economy, it affects how people all over the world view girls and women, it affects my children who are also part of the equation, and so on.
I could live my whole life and not know about or do a darn thing about any kind of injustice that happens to another. But there is an impact associated with that. And the ripple is far-reaching.
As we start 2018, feeling somewhat hungover from the events of 2017, we have a fresh opportunity to open our eyes to injustice. Notice it. Care about it. Do something to tip the scale toward justice everywhere.
Most of us start a new year feeling like we want to change something about ourselves. We focus a lot on our physical health – without which of course, it’s more difficult to attain any of our other goals. We throw in hobbies and professional aspirations, and those are super important, too.
But if we want to consider impacting others in a meaningful, powerful way, we cannot look away from standing up for what is right, and contributing to causes that work toward peace, education, and quality of life for others. We must seek another kind of change.
Opportunities are countless – from smiling more at strangers to listening to the lived experiences of others. We can use our words to affect someone’s day or give voice to someone whose own is quieted for one reason or another. We can build each other up.
We can remember that, really, there is no ‘other’. That what happens to one of us, happens to us all.
We can remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and then walk the path of the great ones who left too soon, but left the world a little changed.
Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.