If people across Sampson County could have witnessed the end of Garland’s second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday, they would have seen what we believe embodies the spirit of a county and a community at work.
As the celebration ended, African-American residents joined hands with their white neighbors, smiled at one another and began to sing, “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place if you can.”
It wasn’t an act just for show, either. There was a genuine camaraderie among those gathered at the Garland First Baptist Church Monday, a sense that they all are in this thing called life together.
They would be right in that assessment.
For Sampson County residents, in many ways, that’s really the direction that’s been taken for years, and if we could only remember the words of that song, combined with words used Monday by Clinton Mayor Lew Starling at the annual MLK Business reception, then we will all be on the right track, a track that will better life for ourselves, for others and, in the end, for the community as a whole.
We are in this together, after all. Or, as Starling referred to it as he cited a parable about two boys and starfish being cast back into the sea — making it matter one starfish at a time.
That’s really all we can do — plug away, day by day, trying to make a difference in first one life and then another, showing respect to our fellow man, understanding that we are all flawed individuals who need someone to believe in us, someone to care for us and someone to lift us up when we’re down and celebrate with us when we are on top.
Sometimes it just takes a joining of hands, hearts and minds; sometimes it takes hard work and a will to look beyond someone’s faults to see their need. But at all times it takes effort.
While we aren’t free yet from racial, social or gender prejudice here in Sampson County, we are moving in the right direction. In fact, in times of need, we barely recognize it all all, as people forge partnerships to right wrongs and meet needs that individually we cannot accomplish.
As we look around today, and throughout the week, commit to seeing Sampson through eyes of compassion, looking for ways we can make a difference. Perhaps it’s by picking up trash along a roadway; perhaps it’s slowing to let an elderly man or woman cross the street. Maybe it will be giving up your place in a checkout line for someone else or contributing to one of the many local charities that help the neediest of our citizens. Helping could mean, providing a coat to someone without; needed money to help someone heat their home or a warm hug to someone who just looks as if they might need one.
Making a difference could mean taking time to visit residents at one of our local nursing homes, sending a card to a sick neighbor or acquaintance, offering a word of advice to a struggling teen or standing up for a cause that perhaps isn’t popular but is the right thing to do.
Imagine if we all took the time to reach out in some way, what a difference that would make in this county.
It’s really up to us, paying forward the blessings we have received and then watching those blessings grow and grow and grow until we have, indeed, made this community and eventually this world, a better place.