Last night we had the pleasure of seeing one of my most beloved stories performed on our local stage. To Kill A Mockingbird embodies a powerful message of integrity, compassion, and courage. Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer, is one of my all-time favorite protagonists. But I can most relate to his young daughter, Scout.
Atticus is a man of deep conviction and strong moral character. He knows the difference between right and wrong. He daily lives what he believes, even when he is scorned by his community of friends and neighbors and puts himself at risk. His quiet strength is balanced by his willingness to speak up for those who are mistreated and looked upon as second class citizens. Where his peers see the outward appearance of the local residents, Atticus looks at their hearts in his neverending quest for truth.
Atticus is criticized by many for allowing his children to run free and do as they wish. But in reality, Atticus is a single dad whose first priority is to teach his children to see all people as equal and to treat everyone with respect and kindness. In Atticus' mind, there is no exception to this rule. He wants his children to learn to put themselves in the shoes of other people. He instills in them the conviction to always do the right thing, even if it means suffering in the process.
Scout, his endearing tomboyish daughter, is feisty and fiercely protective of her family. She always says what she thinks, even when she knows it's going to get her in trouble. She is more of a reactor than a responder, wearing her emotions on her sleeves. But she always seems to mean well. She does a lot of growing up during the short period of time the story takes place. This is to the credit of her loving father, and his decision to teach her through example rather than shelter her from the ugly battle he must fight.
This story is so rich with life lessons. In today's society, we all need the reminder to look beyond outward appearances. We are often too busy to take the time to pause and put ourselves in someone else's shoes. Instead, we are so quick to judge. Imagine the impact we would have if we made the decision to look through empathetic eyes each time we were tempted to think a negative thought about another person.
And how many of us have the courage and conviction to stand up to societal wrongs, especially if it puts us in the path of danger? Who among us has the degree of integrity that Atticus demonstrates? Not me ~ I am more like his daughter Scout. I react, letting my emotions get the better of me. I want to protect those I love more that I desire doing the painfully right thing. Like Scout, I have so much to learn about living each moment of each day with the utmost integrity and demonstrative compassion.
I think that the reason Atticus Finch is one of my favorite literary characters is because he represents all that is good and right and just in this world. Oh, how I long to be like him! And I can't help but think what a better world it would be if we had more people like Atticus Finch.
"Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
~ Atticus Finch, Harper Lee