Acts of Small Rebellions

You might have heard the name of Martin Luther King and even heard his famous “I have a dream” speech. But did you know how the civil rights movement started? It started like this:

Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on. She carries herself erectly, despite having spent the day bent over an ironing board in a dingy basement tailor shop at the Montgomery Fair department store. Her feet are swollen, her shoulders ache. She sits in the first row of the Colored section and watches quietly as the bus fills with riders. Until the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger.

The woman utters a single word that ignites one of the most important civil rights protests of the twentieth century, one word that helps America find its better self.

The word is “No.”

The driver threatens to have her arrested.

“You may do that,” says Rosa Parks.

A police officer arrives. He asks Parks why she won’t move. “Why do you all push us around?” she answers simply.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But the law is the law, and you’re under arrest.”

On the afternoon of her trial and conviction for disorderly conduct, the Montgomery Improvement Association holds a rally for Parks at the Holt Street Baptist Church, in the poorest section of town. Five thousand gather to support Parks’s lonely act of courage. They squeeze inside the church until its pews can hold no more. The rest wait patiently outside, listening through loudspeakers. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd. “There comes a time that people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression,” he tells them. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid st the piercing chill of an Alpine November.”

(Excerpt taken from Susan Cain’s Quiet: The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking)

A little bit of context if you’re being introduced to the topic first time. During the time of Martin Luther King Jr. racial segregation was practiced in US. For example, there were different schools for black children and white children. In army, there were black units & white units. However, both of them would be led only by white officers. In the incident described above, there were different sections in the Bus where black or “colored” people can sit and where white people can sit. And then there was a law that allowed white passengers to take seats in the colored section if they so desired. And then came “No”. An act of civil disobedience.

Although not all of us are likely to start massive movements as a result of something we do, let’s take this incident as an illustration of what little acts of rebellion can achieve. Note here that Rosa Parks is going against the law of the land for something she believes to be right. She believes that all people are equal and white people shouldn’t have the right to take seats allotted to black people. And she acts on it going against the law. Going against the current.

In our lives, daily we may come across opportunities to go against the current and do what is right. Maybe it’s helping someone cross the road. Maybe it’s standing up for one of our peers who’s constantly being teased. Maybe it’s owning up to our mistakes when an easy target to shift the blame is nearby. Maybe it’s helping someone. Maybe it’s picking up someone’s trash and putting it in dustbin. Maybe it’s being kind. Maybe it’s being patient. Maybe it’s shutting up when we want to lash out. Maybe it means turning the other cheek. Do we have courage to go against the tide whether or not it’s popular thing to do? G K Chesterton used to say, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Are we dead or living?

As you ponder upon these things, let me leave you with a song. The song is called Small Rebellions by Jars of Clay.

God of the break and shatter
Hearts in every form still matter
In our weakness help us see
That alone we’ll never be
Lifting any burdens off our shoulders

If our days could be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

God of the warn and tattered
All of Your people matter
Give us more than words to speak
Cause we are hearts and arms that reach
And love climbs up and down the human ladder

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

The fall

We will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

The fall…

You can listen to the song here.

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