This was yesterday’s poem at The Writer’s Almanac:
The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
As the day calls us to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, I am aware of how little our culture at large either values or cultivates the kind of integrity and leadership he incarnated. Though we give him a holiday, we are hard pressed as a nation to say we share his values as primary. As my frustration with the dearth of leadership in our country grows, I find myself drawn to the power of the individual actions of those who have chosen to be the more loving ones, to the small and significant actions that truly do change the world. Certainly King had great changes in mind for our nation as a whole, yet what actually brought the change were young people sitting down at lunch counters, or marching down highways, taking seats at the front of the bus, or giving rides to those who honored the bus boycotts.
So I’m taking the poem as my prayer for today, and, I imagine, for several more days to come: Let the more loving one be me. Whether or not the world changes, I hope the prayer changes me.