Could you walk calmly toward an angry man intent on beating you?
A few years ago, Becky attended a conference when she worked at Timberland Corp. John Lewis, the featured speaker, told the audience of his parents’ admonition to him as a child in the segregated South. “Don’t get in trouble, don’t make noise, don’t get in the way.”
Becky brought me a commemorative t-shirt from the event. It’s one of the coolest gifts I ever received.
The t-shirt proclaims: GET IN THE WAY.
Lewis’ parents rightly worried about his safety. He was nearly clubbed to death simply for walking across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. He was beaten and jailed — multiple times — because he got in the way of unjust laws and policies.
Lewis was a member of MLK’s inner circle and the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. He and his friends refused to accept the status quo, but they also refused to fight back in anger.
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When current leaders advocate counter-punching, standing up to the bully and bloodying his nose, Mr. Lewis followed the path of Jesus. He showed you can stand against injustice without resorting to violence.
Their method was simple: when you see wrong, get in the way. Sit where you’re not supposed to sit. Walk where you’re not supposed to walk. Kneel where you’re not supposed to kneel.
It’s not instant. It’s not painless. It’s not without deep, profound sacrifice. But when you obstruct injustice — tenaciously, nonviolently, in large numbers, with love — it cannot prevail.
There’s not enough anger to overcome the power of love.
Some wanted violent rebellion and called Lewis and his friends cowards for refusing to fight back. It took enormous courage to stand firm for the principles in which they believed.
John Lewis was a great man of great courage and faith. His life was one of absolute humility and tremendous consequence. I hope we’ll follow his example.
When we see injustice, let’s get in the way.