A Candle in the Dark… – By Guest Blogger Ian Labitue
Every year, Morehouse College, my alma mater, commemorates its founding with a gala called “A Candle in the Dark.” The event takes its name from the college’s official history book, which was written by an alumnus named Edward A. Jones (’26). This year, on February 14th, the College celebrated the 156th anniversary of its founding. Although I wasn’t able to attend the gala this year, I made it a point to reflect on my time at Morehouse and appreciate the relationships, influences, and influencers that have shaped my life from the College.
One of Morehouse’s most renowned alumni is Martin Luther King Jr., widely acclaimed for his eloquent spoken and written words. We’re all familiar with his famous speeches, such as the “I Have a Dream” speech and his writings from a jail cell in Birmingham. However, a couple years ago I stumbled upon a quote of his that I had not seen before, and it left a profound impact on me.
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid… You refuse to do it because you want to live longer… You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s words continued to resonate with me, inspiring me to keep a journal that I use to write to my son, Miles. I often include quotes from men and women I admire, hoping that he too will find stimulation in their words. Recently, as I grappled with some personal decisions, I revisited Dr. King’s thoughts on the relationship between fear and inspired action. Even at 42 years old, I still struggle with fear at times. Dr. King’s enumeration of the reasons that have held me back in the past – such as the fear of loss, criticism, or failure – struck a chord with me. It can be difficult to overcome apprehension, even when there is so much to gain by doing so.
When I read Dr. King’s words, I don’t interpret them as saying that we should never feel afraid or that fear won’t impact our lives; rather, he encourages us to be inspired to overcome fear when it arises. Living a fulfilling life means not allowing fear to dictate our actions because it can hinder progress and prevent us from reaching our potential. As a father, it is my responsibility to instill values in my son and guide him towards his own path in life. To do so, I must lead by example and not let fear hold me back. That’s why I started journaling for my son, to not only share my thoughts but also my actions and provide him with a blueprint and guidance to find inspiration and overcome obstacles. I want him to know that while fear is real, it doesn’t have to control us. Instead, we can choose to be inspired, which has the power to:
- Propel us forward while fear holds us back.
- Energize us while fear paralyzes us.
- Open up new possibilities while fear limits our potential.
- Make us feel powerful while fear makes us feel small.
- Create confidence while fear creates doubt.
- Spark creativity while fear stifles it.
- Be positive while fear is negative.
- Be transformative while fear is destructive.
- Lead to success while fear can be a roadblock.
I wrote these following words to Miles at the end of my journal entry and hope that one day, when he reads them, they will affirm him and his inspired action to “stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause”.
Live your life so that the regrets you have are small things and truly insignificant. Do the big things…when something is calling you to act, when you can feel it in your soul and your spirit, be a candle in the dark…don’t be afraid to act!