I can remember very vividly back to my english class my freshman year of high school when we were given the boring sounding book which sounded like a manual on how to kill a bird. I remember thinking that the book started slow and that I couldn't understand why this book had been so famous and beloved by critics and my grandparents. Then Atticus was introduced and I remember thinking he would be a pretty great dad. Not that my dad isn't great, but there was something in the way Atticus explained things to his kids about the world, and even now I can't remember ever wishing that I could meet a fictional character in real life as much as I wished to meet Atticus.
Atticus Finch gave me the perspective at fourteen that prepared me for the rest of my life.
While this book never taught me how to actually kill a Mockingbird- it did teach me a few skills that I would need to get through my teenage years.
Probably the most memorable and recognizable quote from Atticus is one that I am still trying to learn.
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
It is human nature that forces us into the belief that our way is the only way. Our pattern of thinking is always right. Our beliefs are the only ones that are true. Our feelings are the only ones that are relevant. It is so easy to forget that we are not the only people on the planet. We can never truly understand why a person does the things that do- because we are not them.
We do not know the thoughts that a person has before taking the actions that they take. We do not know the backstory to every life we encounter. Despite all of the unknowns on our end- it doesn't make the stories of others any less important than our own. We are all equal. We are all important.
Atticus taught me that I don't have to be big to be brave.
In fact, Atticus was a firm believer that keeping your fists down and your head up was the best way to be brave. Atticus defended the little guys. The outsiders of the time. He was proof that the character of a person is judged by how they treat a person who can do nothing for them. He didn't need guns or weapons to fight, he had a brain and words and the ability to get people to listen.
Atticus taught me that I will see ugly things in the world, but that shouldn't stop me from appreciating the beauty when it presents itself.
Atticus tells Scout and Gem at a certain point that he wishes he could keep them from seeing the ugliness that the world has to offer; the hatred, the injustices, the downfalls that man brings upon himself. Like any father though, he can't stop the inevitable. He can't prevent such things. However, he makes the best out of the ugly- he does what he can so that there is a little less of the ugliness in the world. He doesn't keep his head down because there is ugliness in the world, he keeps his head high with the knowledge that he has the ability to make certain things right. That he holds power to change the world that his kids will grow up in.
I cannot tell you anything else that I learned my freshman year of high school, but I remember the moment when I realized why this was a story that the world never forgets. I can tell you that the world needs more Atticus Finch's. The world needs fathers who will teach their children that you do not need a gun to be brave, and you will never understand a person by judging them. I'm thankful for Harper Lee and her ability to give people everywhere a role model.
When I grow up, I want to be like Atticus Finch.