Like most people, the Rev. Frederick G. Sampson doesn't like to see suffering.
But during a speech Monday commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Sampson said it often is in a hospital's intensive care unit that people realize the truth of King's message: People should not become divided over superficial differences.
"Real love doesn't look at color," Sampson said in addressing about 350 people at Plymouth Congregational Church. Sampson, a Detroit minister and the featured speaker at the event, drew several rounds of applause and laughter during his speech.
Sampson recalled an occasion in the 1960s when he made a hospital visit to a terminally ill person. Upon meeting with one of the patient's loved ones in the waiting room, he encountered several women, each of a different "ethnic identification."
The group included a German woman, a black woman, a Polynesian woman and a white woman.
SAMPSON said that in those days, "If I would have sat by one of those women, they would have gotten up."
However, the entire group accompanied him to the patient's room and held hands in prayer, and afterward "all of them hugged me and thanked me."
Sampson said he would like to "turn America into an intensive ward once a month so we could all meet, so we could hold each other's hands."
Sampson also recalled how Lee Atwater, who managed George Bush's presidential campaign in 1988, apologized on his death bed for having made a campaign issue of Willie Horton, a black convict who raped a woman while on a weekend furlough from prison.
Atwater, who died in 1991 of a brain tumor, said "it took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with (the) truth" that the country is suffering from a "tumor of the soul," Sampson related.
Sampson also told of how a young girl with epilepsy began suffering a violent seizure while waiting in the doctor's office. Another young girl, much to her mother's chagrin, pointed to the seizure victim and said, "Look . . . " But the young girl finished her commentary by saying, "Doesn't she have pretty eyelashes?"
"A 6-YEAR-OLD girl used this penetrating insight to look beyond all eyesight and see a delicate presence," Sampson said.
Sampson called for "boldness beyond benediction" in showing support for King's dream.
"We've got to go beyond rhetoric. We've got to go beyond ceremonial richness. We've got to go beyond this hour," he said.
Dan Wildcat, who chairs the department of natural and social sciences at Haskell Indian Junior College, offered a similar message in a speech he gave before Sampson's.
Wildcat said the Martin Luther King holiday should not be viewed as "a day of leisure" but should be seen in the other context of the word as a "holy day," a day when "one ceases general business and business as usual."
"His life was about halting business as usual. . . . The love and the labor that Martin Luther King demonstrated in his life is what I want to draw upon," Wildcat said, adding that achieving King's dream will require a "labor of love."
CLERGYMEN from the Ecumenical Fellowship, which sponsored the event, also addressed the gathering during the three-hour ceremony. Other speakers included Lawrence Mayor Bob Walters, County Commissioner Mark Buhler and state Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.
Other events included the singing of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "We Shall Overcome." And the Community Youth Choir received more than one standing ovation for the four numbers it performed.
In addition, the Ecumenical Fellowship presented Lawrence city commissioners a plaque for having made Martin Luther King Day a city holiday for the first time this year. The Ecumenical Fellowship also presented a community service award to Arden Booth, president of KLWN-KLZR Radio in Lawrence.