It's amazing how simple a world-altering opportunity can be, as simple as sitting down.
With the October death of Rosa Parks at age 92, we were reminded how her refusal to adhere to the racist bus-seating rules of Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 gave birth the civil-rights movement.
This ordinary act also gave rise to one of our country's most powerful leaders: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The 27-year-old reverend emerged as a leader of the bus boycott that grew from Parks' civil disobedience. While he helped organize carpools for Montgomery's black population, King showed his community, and his country, how to protest for the right to live a peaceful and respected life.
This was not easy to do, for his peaceful protests were often met with violence. Four black churches were firebombed by white segregationists, and a shotgun was fired through the front door of King's home, which was also bombed.
However, the persistence and courage of King, Parks and the rest of Montgomery's black community paid off when the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on the local bus line in 1956, a crucial step on America's long walk to racial harmony.
King is a national hero honored for fighting racism, wherever it occurred in our society, while standing up for social justice. He risked his life speaking truth to power and rallied others to shake the foundations of the status quo.
The popular maxim "Faith without works is dead" accurately describes King's life while helping us realize we have a lot in common with the man and his time.
King lived in a war-torn era that eerily echoes ours today - where a war is draining our country dry and isolating us on the world stage, our leaders in Washington are being exposed for corruption, and poverty is rampant.
With these grim facts in mind, on Monday, Jan. 16, the observance of King's birthday, let's move beyond the mesmerizing poetry of his speeches and look at the circumstances that inspired and the actions that followed his words.
While the arc of his life was cut short by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968, the lessons of his actions continue to thrive. We only need to seize the simple opportunities to act in our homes and neighborhoods.
Erik Hansen is editor of the Beacon Hill News & South District Journal, an associate publication of the Herald-Outlook.