Fifty years ago, and just one year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a sermon at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago titled, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” Dr. King’s 3D sermon emphasized the height dimension of life (God) along with the length (self) and breadth dimensions (others). Some of his thoughts about breadth made the entire sermon known as “the street sweeper speech.” Today, on the holiday that remembers Dr. King, I ask you to remember this:
When I was in Montgomery, I went to a shoe shop quite often, known as the Gordon Shoe Shop. And there was a fellow in there that used to shine my shoes, and it was just an experience to witness this fellow shining my shoes. He would get that rag, you know, and he could bring music out of it. And I said to myself, “This fellow has a Ph.D. in shoe shining.” What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill
be a scrub in the valley,
but be the best little scrub on the side of the hill,
be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail;
if you can’t be the sun be a star.
It isn’t by size that you win or fail—
Be the best of whatever you are.