To Kill a Mockingbird – we all know the story. Set from 1933-35 in Maycomb, Alabama, the story depicts the racial disparities in the South and how one man, Atticus Finch, an attorney in a small Southern town, stands up for what he believes is right. It is not just that the fictitious Atticus is an early hero of civil rights, it is also how he teaches his children to respect all people and to see the world from their perspective that really struck me when I watched the play this weekend at The Summit Playhouse in Summit, NJ.
Some of the Atticus lessons that stood out for me:
- Treat all people with respect – regardless if their views are completely opposite or even offensive to your own
- Have courage to hold your head up for what you believe in. Your kindness and respect will shine into others’ lives eventually.
- Be open to seeing the world from other people’s vantage points. You may still disagree, but by seeking to understand their viewpoint, you can lead from an empathic perspective towards an outcome you think is right.
Atticus’ lessons don’t sink in right away, but over time his words and actions make sense. Do these children grow up to be like their father? To be leaders of change in times of difficulty?
Here it is 2018, has our country really evolved much since the time in Harper Lee’s book? As parents, educators and leaders, I think Atticus sets an example for us – our words and actions matter to the young people around us. When we stand up for what we think is right we model our moral and ethical value system. When we invite them to view all the sides of the issues at hand and help them to make up their own minds, we can then encourage them to take a stand for their own beliefs. This matters even more than expecting them to adopt our views.
Growing leaders means growing hearts and minds with well-informed intellect and courage to lead this world to a better place.
Thank you Harper Lee for bringing a character like Atticus Finch into our world.