In this universe, which was created by a divine, organizing intelligence, there are simply no accidents.
With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.
Here’s what I remember about a day 50 years ago that changed my life and the consciousness of America forever:
I am driving my Studebaker Lark home from the university after a full day of classes. I am nearing the end of my sophomore year after having attended summer school. I want to graduate as soon as possible to get on with my teaching ambitions.
It is Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963. I am approaching the Edsel Ford Expressway (I-94) on Crane Street and am just on the entrance ramp when I hear this shocking news on the car radio: “We interrupt this program to announce that the President of the United States has been shot in Dallas a few moments ago. It is expected that it is fatal.”
I pull over on the entrance ramp and sit in stunned silence. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I feel as though a bullet has torn through me and left me too shattered to drive. I can’t catch my breath. I am taking the news blaring over the radio very, very personally. I loved this President dearly. He spoke so eloquently of the many injustices that he wanted to see corrected. He stood for eliminating the horror shows of segregation. He exuded hope for a better world, and he was willing to take on the forces that wanted to keep the same old prejudices and hatred in place. I marveled at the courage he showed in his campaign when he promised executive, moral, and legislative leadership to combat racial discrimination and school segregation. I believed in this man. I felt close to him.
Later, I’m working at Kroger Market on the evening shift from four till nine. Everyone checking out at my cash register is in shock—very few are able to speak. I look into a woman’s eyes as I hand her her change and when our eyes meet, we both break down in tears. The silence permeates everything. No one can speak without tearing up. I am impacted by this tragedy in a way totally foreign to me. It feels as if my life is going to make a big shift as a result of the events of this day.
That day in November 1963 initiated a huge shift for me in many ways. Up until then, virtually everything in my life that was impacting my future was of a personal nature. My experiences in foster homes or an orphanage, in high school, and in the Navy were my “Wayne Dyer moments” of awakening to a new direction and a new consciousness in my personal life. The assassination of President Kennedy didn’t just kill a man I admired tremendously; it killed something in me as well.
I began then and there to think about a plan for a life that would have a historical and global effect. It was no longer just about my impending career as a teacher. I began to think in terms of how I could impact the consciousness of the entire planet. I saw myself from that day forward as a man with a voice of compassion for a higher good. I didn’t know how or even what my role might be, but I knew that one person with a conscience could make a difference and I was that person. Why not? I thought like JFK did long before I had ever heard of this man. I tingled as I thought of giving a voice to these ideas and having that voice heard around the world. I began to see myself as a world leader—not a political leader—but a person who was filled with compassion for everyone, and a person whom others were willing to listen to.
As I look back on the assassination of President Kennedy, now 50 years later, I can see that he was destined to give up his life in order to have his own dharma fulfilled. I believe that there are no accidents in this spiritually ordained universe. The death of President Kennedy that day opened the door to long-overdue civil rights, voter rights, health care for the elderly, improved schools, and an awareness that equal rights were not just words to be spoken, but actions to be taken by all of us. This was the only way that the consciousness of our country could shift.
I was also caught up in this new awareness. A rising tide raises all boats, and I felt metaphorically raised by this tragic event. I, like so many others, marched for civil rights and protested a looming war in Vietnam. As a teacher in the inner city of Detroit, and later as a spokesman for ending world hunger through the Hunger Project, I sought changes to our unjust and unnecessary attitudes. My life as a writer and speaker focused on elevating people from thinking of themselves as ordinary and limited, to trusting in a new awareness that within everyone resides a no-limit person who can accomplish anything they place their attention upon.
President Kennedy’s vision for a country populated by citizens who want to give and to serve more than take and receive, is a vision that I share as well. That he had to die in order to move the entire country in a new more compassionate direction is a part of the perfection of our universe. It can be argued interminably, but nevertheless it is so. He did die, and we all became better people as a result. And I too began my journey toward being a better person, and a career centered on service and compassion and love for everyone. My life might have had a different emphasis and direction had the events in Dallas that day not occurred.