Today we celebrate the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest social justice crusaders, orators, pacifists, and spiritual workers the world has even known.  Least to mention one of the greatest visionaries.

His I have Dream Speech resonates as strong and as imperative for all today as when he delivered it back in the 60s. An eloquent and powerful speech delivered atop the Lincoln Memorial steps to 200,000 supporters which defined the American Civil rights Movement, it marked a watershed moment for America and Amercians alike.

Suffice it to say, Martin Luther King reigns as one of America’s most important  and instrumental native sons.

At least he ranks in that status in my book. His contributions to our nation and to us as individuals is immeasurable. Which got me thinking about a sermon I heard years ago from one of my personal great life mentors and a spiritual leader who tops my list of most inspirational people I have ever had the honor or calling friend, Dr. Karl A. Johnson.

The topic that Sunday was about what Dr. Johnson has dubbed his balcony people—a term that has since not only become a staple in my vocabulary but a philosophy I’ve adopted for living. Balcony People are an imperative element of life. They are for me at least. I can tell you that I personally have many balcony people and that MLK is right up there sitting in the front row.

So what are Balcony People?

And why are they so imperative for us to not only embrace but to seek consult from during both the ups and downs inherent to this earth journey that we all signed up to walk? Balcony People are individuals whom have crossed to the other side whose lives made an impact on our own.

They may be people you personally knew or others you only read about and knew from the history books whose personal and unique legacy stamped change upon this realm. Upon our individuals lives. They do not have to be rich or famous. They don’t have to hold powerful corporate positions. They aren’t required to be great inventors. Or politicians. Or actors.  Or religious leaders. Or anything like that. They may be merely the neighbor next door or the stranger who offered you a simple kindness during a time of need with no reward for them at all.

What Balcony People do have in common is that they are individuals whose existence on earth has touched your life in such a way that they made you become a better person.

That’s the only prerequisite. Another thing about Balcony People is that we’ve all got them. Whether Christian or not, undoubtedly we’ve all heard that ubiquitous phrase–What would Jesus do? And the phrase is not precluded to only Christians. I mean everyone can cite examples as to how Jesus lived his life that apply to his or her own. Same goes for Buddha or Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Or Martin Luther King .

Balcony People are sorta like that.

They are the people who change our lives in ways grand or small for the better. They are our moral compass when we need to recharge our own or worse when we need a total reality check and revamping. They are the people we draw upon for inspiration and answers when we are facing a moral, social, spiritual or even personal quandary or dilemma that has us stumped. They are the ones we seek guidance from when the solution or answer has eluded our grasp to such a degree that we toss up our hands in defeat and say—okay I’m clueless…..hmmm…..but what would so and so do?

These are our balcony people. I know that I call upon my balcony people often. They have never let me down for I can draw upon specific examples from their specific lives where they faced a similar situation as to the one I was experiencing at the time. When I encounter a situation that I am unsure as to which direction to take or which action to wield, I take pages from how they resolved parallel situations during their lives.

I then look outward as to how they resolved or acted at that time and then can reflect inward as to whether or not I have the courage and strength to do the same.

Which in turn affects how I conduct myself and life. And while I have made many a mistake and have had my share of failings and regrets I can honestly say that my balcony people and the examples and references their lives impacted upon mine have never let me down.

It is my hope that when the curtain closes on my human existence and the words the end are penned that others will cite me as one of their balcony people, in particular my son. That is the legacy I wish to leave behind.  One that I somehow made a difference; that at least one person found hope during a time of despair, assistance during a time of need, joy in a time of sorrow just by the mere fact that his or her life intersected with mine.

If I can do that, then I too will become a balcony person. And I don’t have to be famous or rich or to have invented the latest medical cure or internet toy to do that. All it takes is just planting seeds of integrity, compassion, change and love in the small corner of the world that is my garden as best I can.

For as Martin Luther King  said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

So my question remains—who are your balcony people? Only let me add an addendum…will you plant your apple trees and be remembered as a balcony person as well?



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