Stories have the power to move your friends to tears of empathy or joyous laughter, they also have the power to shift nations.
Every great leader has known that to create a better world you first need to create a better story. John F Kennedy put it like this, "The problems of this world cannot be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need those that can dream of things that never were". True to this Martin Luther King inspired with his, "I have a dream" speech, and John Lennon urged us to, "Imagine all the people".
When Martin Luther King urged us to imagine a better future his dream had no place for the scenes seen in Ferguson last week. A young unarmed black man, Michael Brown shot down by a police officer in the middle of the street in daylight whilst holding his hands in the air. This would have been his worst nightmare.
Why, when society seems to have progressed so far, and with Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States do we still have scenes like this?
Love has taken us thus far, but we still fear. As anyone who has stood on the middle of a bridge hesitating on their first bungie jump will know, resistance stems from fear. If we haven't progressed to a completely peaceful nation it is because we still fear. We still fear our fellow man based on the color of his skin. And crucially we also fear Martin Luther King's dream of an equal society free from oppression and based on brotherhood.
We fear both what we see in front of us now and we fear the dream. This fear is partially based on experience, but the real cause of fear is on our minds. It comes from what we think we see in the 'other' and the story we tell ourselves about the 'other'.
"He wants to kill me" or "He wants to take away my freedom", "He is not my equal, my brother, he is my enemy".
If we want to change reality first we have to change the story we have in each of our minds. We must develop fearless minds. To begin with this may mean making a conscious effort to overcome any prejudices or stereotypes about the 'other'. This is not about creating a fluffy, sentimental feeling, but about examining our thoughts, beliefs and intentions. It is about creating within ourselves the intention to reach out and make the effort to understand and show compassion for our perceived enemies.
Martin Luther King also understood that a lofty dream was nothing without commitment and determination. And the commitment we must have now is to examine our thoughts and intentions to create change in the world around us.
The events in Missouri are a wake up call. The nation is not yet at peace. There is fear and conflict in our minds whose path always leads to destruction. When we transform this to peace and compassion the path leads to creativity and connection.
If Michael's death is not to be in vain we must see it as a call to examine our thoughts and intentions and a call to reach out across divisions of fear and separation. I encourage you to give new meaning to the events in Missouri, and to create a new story and a truly United States.