Saturday, March 5, 2016

Godspeed Ms. Lee

Dear Harper:

You died on February 16, 2016 so I must make my apologies for no writing you sooner and memorializing you in my own way. It is completely inhuman of me and disrespectful, giving the esteem with which I hold you and how you have influenced my life in a positive way.

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in ninth grade at Memorial High School. At that time, I found it fascinating that a group comprised of two children, their single father and their Black cook could so easily form a unit.  I was more fascinated by the adventures that the children had and what happened to Scout at the end of the book, with Atticus just being a character that flitted around the edges, no more important than Calpurnia or Boo. As a 13 year old or 14 year old, I think that I had related more to Scout than anyone else in the book and in some ways I probably still do (since she is loosely based upon you and we probably had more in common than not).  This is, however, one of those few books that you can read at various parts of your life and upon each reading, you can read many times at different parts of your life and still take away many, many lessons. It was so with me and this book.  I found the racial relationships described in teh book fascinating - how did Calpurnia feel about her position? What did her family and friends think?  What did the black and white communities think of her role and what those communities in real life?

And then there was Atticus.  Oh, Atticus!  How you created a character that people grew to adore, love even, respect and emulate. He was the person that you wanted to model your behavior after, particularly when it came to how to treat people and wisdom. Those were two things that made him one of the most admirable people in literature but perhaps, most importantly, he is why I and countless others went to law school.  He stood up for the underdog and the person that culture silenced, even though it came at much personal emotional, financial and physical risk. He showed his belief that everyone deserved the best representation possible regardless of who they were and he did his best.  Whenever I feel that I'm losing my vision of what I am doing in my own job and life as a lawyer/trainer/educator, I read the book again and it re focuses me and puts me on the right path again.  I remember why I'm doing what I'm doing and why it's important. It continues to drive me forward.

Thank you. Thank you, Thank you. When you wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, I often wonder if you anticipated how far reaching and how much of an impact your novel would h ave.  I'm not sure it would have been looked at twice if you had released Go Set A Watchman first, but that's not what happened so I won't speculate.  The point is, your work has had an impact not on just my own, small, life but on a much bigger level.  May you rest in peace Harper and thank you!

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