By Karen Treat
I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I don’t recollect reading it before. I didn’t see the movie. Now, I can say I have. Read the book. Along with all four of my children who have read it as part of their curriculum in high school. I’m glad for it. It is an important read.
I even read that it would be a contender to a must read, alongside the Bible.
There is so much to this story. It is hard to narrow the messages to one reflection.
In one scene, Atticus, the lawyer and widowed father of two is sitting outside the jailhouse where the falsely accused Tom is awaiting trial. A small group of men come to confront him. They circle Atticus on the street as he tries to reason with them. The scene escalates, with the group threatening Atticus’s life if he doesn’t stop defending Tom. A black man.
Atticus’ young children Jem and Scout have been watching this scene unfold. They run to protect their father. Scout diminishes the threat to Atticus by distracting one of the men. This man is a father of a classmate of hers. Scout asks the enraged father about his son, reminding him of where he comes from, who he belongs to, and whom he influences on a daily basis. The energy is broken and the mob disperses. At least for a few moments.
The surprising point of this encounter is when the children speak ill of this man that threatened their father. Atticus informs them that this father, like him is just a product of his position in the world. What he has encountered along the way. That they should not judge him for his behavior. Atticus helps to see that turning the other cheek is the answer. To love him, despite his misinformed and misaligned thinking.
Atticus teaches these children how to truly see people and how to treat them.
That the skin color, the social economic station in life and the education received do not make for one person to be above another. That all should be treated with honor. All given grace.
Harper Lee writes in To Kill a Mockingbird, to see all as children of God. She doesn’t say it explicitly. That is the beauty of the story. But, it is at least one of the intentions. That all are loved and need to experience that love. It is our place to give that love and see that love. Be that love.
Life is full of injustice. It is hard to bring grace in whatever and whoever we encounter. When we remember that God is in and among us. That we have the capacity to hold God. That God loves us. Even when we don’t deserve it. Life and its challenges get a little easier. With that knowledge, I can say “thanks be to God.”