I’ve been reading a lot of post-election articles. I’d imagine most of us have been as we sort through the recent presidential election that’s caused such a fierce flurry of feelings in the people of our nation and beyond.
But one in the online publication “Aleteia” resonated above all to me: “One mean election: Lessons I learned from Atticus Finch”. The title alone says something, for “mean” seems the way things have gone recently. Mean in the extreme. And I can’t help but think that one of the characters mentioned in the article could really teach us a lot right now.
To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my father’s all-time favorites, and when I read about Scout, or see her in the film adaptation of the story, I’m reminded what a gift she has of being the opposite of mean, because of the lessons her father has taught her, and her good and untarnished heart.
Granted, she’s not perfect. She messes up. She has moments of failure. But in the end, she’s determined, above all, to do the right thing. That’s what I have tried to do as well, and keep trying to do, despite my mess-ups along the way. And it’s why I aspire to be Scout, to be reminded of that youthful innocence that we all still have somewhere within — that desire to look past human-made boundaries to see into the soul of one another. Not just the exterior but into the deepest part, where goodness lies.
Stories have a way of showing truth to us, and at the precise moment we need it. Consider that this story came out in 1960, and yet it’s ever more relevant now, in 2016.
Reading the article, immediately, I thought not only of what’s been going on in the world, but what happens every Wednesday in front of our state’s only abortion facility — there where the co-mingling of folks with different missions takes place, and our frustrations may tempt any or all gathered there to forget our inner Scout.
But oh how we need to remember her now.
“Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?… I go to school with Walter. He’s your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he, sir?”
Scout knows, on some level, the danger she’s in and what’s at stake — as much as a young girl can — yet she chooses to see right past that to a hopeful prospect. Call it survival. Call it the lessons her father implanted coming to fruition at just the right time. Call it grace.
God will use whatever he must to reach us, and help us reach others. Whether we are 8, or 48. If we are open to goodness and receptive to His will, he’ll unleash that grace onto us to use for his glory.
Sometimes, I am so tempted to talk to the escorts who hang out on the sidewalk with us. I used to try more often but it’s hard to have a one-side conversation. And then I realized they’re instructed not to talk to us. The dividing line is secure. And it’s hard, if not impossible, to break through.
Yet Scout reminds us anything is possible when we imagine the good, and remember that everyone has something worthy and pure within them. With some people, as my 6th grade teacher once told me, we just have to dig a little deeper. Sometimes people have to dig deep with me as well. Most days, I’m nothing close to a saint.
“What was she doing? Didn’t she know what was at stake here?” asks Tod Worner in the article. “A mob can show little mercy even to the earnest young – especially when it feels righteous and wronged.”
This is hitting home now. A few days ago, I approached a “mob” unintentionally. A protest against the election results had been announced, set for this Saturday, though it was labeled simply as a March Against Hate and promised to be about unity. Given the description I took a chance and asked organizers of the group page if all are welcomed. It didn’t take long before the stones began to be hurled. And I realized that despite the way it had been advertised, the event wasn’t set up for everyone. Only its own.
“Yet, Atticus didn’t raise her to believe in mobs,” Worner continues, “but to believe in people. In their inherent dignity. In their oft-obscured better natures. In their sympathetic hopes and aching failures. Atticus taught her to believe in lost causes. And justice overwhelmed by mercy. And Conscience not easily assuaged by honey-tongued excuses.”
This speaks to me right now as I watch the mob in my wake and return again to the reality that even these are people, brothers and sisters, fashioned by God, needing a savior, deserving of hope.
It speaks to me, too, because the pro-life cause has seemed, at times, a lost cause, and yet some of us have refused to believe that. Like Scout, we’re choosing to see the world through hope-colored glasses, knowing it’s better than giving up, and because, well, you never know…
“I wanted you to see what real courage is…” Atticus tells his children at one point. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
That’s what it feels like to go out on the sidewalk each week. You know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, it’s true…but sometimes you do. And for that “sometimes,” it’s totally worth trying.
Not every time, but sometimes, the women do take our literature — like the one with the pretty blue eyes who smiled at me this morning, raw and trusting, accepting my little brochure that would remind her of her baby’s already-beating heart, and her chance to be a heroine. I saw something in those blue eyes that begged to be led away from that place, and they’re fixed in my heart now.
I’m praying for her, and for the escort who told her she didn’t have to accept the card I offered (though she did nonetheless). I know the escort has her own difficult story filled with wounds. She needs our prayers just as much.
And while the March Against Hate is gathering this weekend, at the hour of Divine Mercy here in the CST zone, the day before the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy ends, I will be making my own petitions for justice and love, in a prayer room somewhere in our city. And I trust my words will reach up to God, and back down again to the heart of someone in that group. Even if it’s just one, it will be worth it.
In the end, I am Scout in that I am still, just as I was at age 8, the girl who hopes for real justice, and will continue trying, even when the cause seems lost before I’ve begun, even when those who misunderstand me shout angry words.
The article ends with a quote from Atticus: “Scout, I couldn’t go to church or worship God if I didn’t try to help that man…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.”
Ain’t it true.
I wish we could all go back to a more innocent time, and see ourselves again as restless kids just looking for something to keep our summer days filled, but always with a heart to see the good in each other. I’m going to be a little crazy and keep hoping for that.
Scout, are you ready? Let’s go. I’m bringing you to the sidewalk next week, hoping you can teach me a thing or two. Thanks for being a guiding light.