As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this January 17th, 2022, I greet you with anticipation of the significant impact that you are going to make in our world. And how are you going to do this? Through empathy. At InteraWorks, we’ve made the quality decision to elevate the human experience through empathy. It is a key component to unlocking breakthroughs and strengthening relationships. Dr. King knew this best.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only the American Baptist Minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement but also a firm believer in extending empathy to all. Dr. King hugged our great nation with an embrace of nonviolence and civil disobedience which shifted racial segregation and dismantled the so-called “separate by equal” doctrine for African Americans living in the United States. As an empathetic leader, Dr. King demonstrated the ability to place oneself in another’s position. As, famed author, Harper Lee puts it “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Dr. King was of the people and for the people by marching arm and arm across the bridge in Selma, Alabama, and getting arrested for group sit-ins. None of these were individual tasks were done in silos. He connected with people in a way that powerfully changed the world we live in. He did it with the skill of hugging humanity — empathy.
As I think back to my experience of receiving empathy, I recall a chilly afternoon in Philadelphia. I was a ten-year-old elementary school basketball player in the 4th grade and had the privilege of joining the nearly eight-teen thousand on hand at the Spectrum to watch the visiting Los Angeles Lakers play our hometown 76ers. My teammate’s father worked for New Balance and hosted their star endorsee, Mr. James Worthy.
After watching this over-time thriller of a game where the magical “Showtime” Lakers won by two points, my friend’s father surprised us with passes to meet the team in the tunnel as they boarded their charter bus to the airport. I saw A.C. Green, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (my head was at his waist) and to me, he seemed ten feet tall. After catching my breath and harnessing my composure, we waited with many fans and reporters for Ervin “Magic” Johnson to come through the tunnel.
I can remember feeling overwhelmed and that it couldn’t get any better than this, as I leaned against the wall behind the masses. And then, a pair of eyes met my gaze and held it. It was the Magic Man himself, in a big fur coat and an even bigger smile. He rushed towards me saying “Hey my man” and gave me the biggest hug that I had ever felt. He embraced me as though he knew me – like I was family. Until that moment, I didn’t know it was even possible to connect with someone that you hadn’t ever met before. He left his fame, influence, and celebrity on the sidelines to meet me where I was. And it made me feel like a king.
I decided from that moment on that this was how I was going to live my life. Getting out of my own way to recognize the humanity in others. This is the spirit of Dr. King that has been passed along through the many hugs and embraces that have reshaped our communities. Continue to make the choice to be there for others and magically you can create a hug of a lifetime.
Author – Thomas Ramsey
Relationship Lead & Facilitator
InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent and energy to produce results that matter most.
We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.