Feb. 4, 2015
It’s almost as if Valentine’s Day and the love it brings has come a bit early for one man in Detroit. By now, you’ve probably heard about James Robertson, profiled recently in a Detroit Free Press article.
Robertson is a resident of Detroit who walks 21 miles a day to get to his job in the suburbs and hasn’t missed a day of work – not even in the middle of snowstorms. His car broke down years ago and the bus routes don’t go the entire way so instead of giving up and quitting, he walks. It’s an incredible story about perseverance and hard work and a will unlike most.
What’s also incredible is the outpouring of support the story prompted. A 19-year-old Wayne State student, Evan Leedy, from Macomb Township, started a GoFundMe drive to help buy Robertson a car. The original goal was $5,000. As of right now, the effort has raised more than $280,000 to help out a stranger in need. Donations have poured in from all over Michigan, the country and even from around the world. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
No doubt there is a lot of hate in this world. There are wars, conflicts, religious and racial tensions in the news every day. The city of Detroit has seen more than its share of strife. Race riots in 1943 and 1967 are part of its ugly history. Detroit has struggled immensely and gets its fair share of negative attention.
And yet, amidst that negativity, a ray of hope and love shines through in the story of one hard-working man and the kindness of strangers. Robertson is African American from Detroit. Leedy is a white kid from the suburbs. That might have mattered earlier in our history, but love and caring transcends differences of all kinds.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”
That quote was a source of inspiration for senior advertising student Tessa Gebhart when she was designing her winning entry for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. poster contest. She says that when she came across the quote, the idea of spelling out love with images of her hands hit her. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Love is the Force, to learn more about her inspiration and see her winning poster.
While students today are inspired by the words left behind by the civil rights leader, William G. Anderson, a physician and faculty member in the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, heard some of those words from the man himself. Anderson grew up in Georgia during a time when he couldn’t drink from water fountains, eat in restaurants, stay in motels or use the restrooms when his family traveled. He couldn’t see white doctors or be treated in white hospitals and African American physicians were extremely rare.
Anderson became a founder of the Albany Movement, a seminal struggle for civil rights in Georgia in the 1960s, and found himself sitting at his picnic table with Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy joining forces to change the world. Read his moving FACULTY VOICE: Freedom of Equality, to learn more about this inspiring MSU physician.
This world still has a long way to go in bridging cultural barriers and promoting equality for all people and yet I am filled with hope. Amidst the stories of anger and hate, I choose to focus on those that come from love. Stories like Robertson’s, or the one recently where strangers donated to a poor school in New York after a student praised his principal on Humans of New York, a popular social media site.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” As we near Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to go out and make a friend.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner