Most of you know that I write a freelance article or two for my local paper from time to time. This month I had the opportunity to write an article and take photos while touring our town’s Civil Rights Trail. I honestly encourage any of you to take the self-guided tour, it is well worth it. The tour became so much more than a history lesson.
Meridian, Mississippi has a long history with civil rights. In 1871 there was a race riot in Meridian and there are racial tensions there still today. No one really talks about it, it just is. For the most part, people get along and live together in our community, but sometimes there are incidents that cause ripples that spread out through society as a whole. The murder of the three civil rights workers in the summer of 1964 is an example that comes to mind. That brings me back to the Civil Rights Trail. The stops all talk about things that went on during that time and the history is amazing. You actually walk along the same path that they walked during that time. You stop at places that were instrumental to the Civil Rights movement. The very last stop on this self guided tour is the grave of James Chaney, the murdered civil rights worker that was from Meridian.
When I went on my tour I began one morning as the fog was lifting above the treetops. I took the long drive out to the gravesite and marveled at how remote it was. As I stepped out of my truck at the gravesite I heard nothing but birdsong. I felt the wind caress my face and as I looked back the way I had come I saw a sign on the road that said, “Dangerous Curves.” How fitting. As I stood looking at the grave before me I couldn’t help but keep coming back to that sign. James Chaney believed in something. He believed that he could make a difference so he set out on his road. He may have realized that there were dangerous curves ahead of him but he chose to walk his road anyway. Now, he is laid to rest at the end of one dangerous curve and the beginning of another curve.
As the peace of the cemetery settled upon me I couldn’t help reflecting on that thought. Most of us set out in life on our road. Some of us take the road that has the least amount of resistance, the least amount of strife. We choose to try and get through life taking an easy road. Some of us seem to take a road that is fraught with perils and lessons. Some take the road that is hard, whether it is by choice or by design. Then there are those of us that take the road that is filled with danger but a road that allows us to make a difference in the lives of many, allows us to touch the hearts and minds of others. This road allows us to make a difference, not just in our own lives, but the lives of many others. This road allows us to leave lessons for those that come after us, for those that walk our road, even for a moment. This road is where greatness is born. I hope I can walk this road one day. Sometimes the outcome is not what we want. I am sure James Chaney did not want to have his life cut short, but standing there looking at that sign I was sure that he would most likely set out on that same path again.
Now it is up to us. It is up to us to choose to do the hard things. It is up to us to walk the road with the dangerous curves. It is up to us to look beyond where we are and try to see where we could be. Even if we are not sure what is around the next curve, it is up to us to try and reach the end destination. I think the destination is a little different for each of us, but in the end I think the destination is a place where we each treat one another how we would like to be treated. There it is again. The Golden Rule. That is the rule that I try to live my life by and the one that I think would fix most everything if we all tried to live that way. Really I think that that one rule would smooth out all the curves and make the world a place that those who have come before us would be proud of. I don’t see that happening this day. Maybe in a future around the bend, just not today. All I can do is keep trying to live my life that way and try to show others. Maybe in the end that is all any of us can do.
Standing there, in the middle of the road, as the wind softly caressed my cheeks the sign stood marking the beginning of the dangerous curve before me. I had the opportunity to go the other way, to head around the bend into easier waters…I chose the curve. Right there in that road I chose, and it felt right deep in my soul. Life is not easy. Life is not made to take an easy path…if we do that we miss out on most of the living part of life. As I turned back to the grave to take my photos for my story I was filled with and surrounded by a peacefulness. The kind you get when you know that you are on the right road. I don’t know what the future will bring for me but I know that I will navigate my road with confidence. I will round dangerous curves and I will come out the other side one way or another. I hope to leave a lasting impression on this world, even if it is through just one person. If I have done that, if I have made a small difference in one life; well, then it was worth it. Any strife, any uncertainty, any pain, they will all have been worth the price. I must say, I know the ride will be worth the price of admission.
I hope that each of you navigate your road and I hope that you don’t take the path of least resistance. If you get a chance, check out the history of those who have gone before us, people like James Chaney. Maybe one day I will pass you on the road. Maybe one day we can sit and have a chat. Maybe one day we will all have time for that. Maybe one day I will have done my part to help change this world into a place where people treat each other better than we do today. Our world is already filled with wonder and beauty, maybe we can tip the kindness scale too. I hope that each of you have a great day and take at least one dangerous curve, you never know what could be waiting for you on the other side. Talk to you again soon!
And of course, here are a couple of photos for you to enjoy, well I hope you do anyway!
By the way, here is the link to the original story. Civil Rights Trail