Harper Lee’s To Kill AMockingbird impacted my young life profoundly.
Reading it inspired me to try to always do what I believed was right, morally. As a result, as an adult, I have often found myself the minority voice speaking out about things that others have shaken their head at me for.
Meh. So what. I have an almost clean conscience after almost 45 years of life. With only twice not having done the right thing.
The first time was in Melbourne quite a lot of years ago. My sister and I were there to see Something for Kate. We were walking across a pedestrian crossing when a cyclist was attacked by a walking man. I wanted to stop to help the man who had been knocked down, but I listened to the voices that asked me what I could do.
Three times. The third time was last July in NYC when a man fell. Apart from offer comfort, there was nothing I could do. But comfort is significant. Next time, I will listen to my own voices.
And the second time was a racial interaction on the bus on the way home home in 2012. I had no car and caught the bus home regularly, often missing the school kids because I would stay back to work. As was the case the day of the incident.
The bus was virtually empty. I always say near the front if I could. This day two seats faced each other and I sat on the one facing the way home. A group of my students, Islanders, male, got on and sat near me. Another lady, older, white, got on. She was rude to the kids. There were more than enough available seats and she made a point of getting them to move.
I was outraged. I told my kids they had behaved appropriately. BUT I did not tell that lady to pull her head in. I can justify why I didn’t. As I can justify the two other situations. But it’s still not right.
Of course, these are three times I haven’t stood up. I can’t count the times that I have. Funny, my mind doesn’t focus on good lol.
Speaking up, stepping up, is bloody hard and often incurs personal sacrifice. My movement up the leadership ladder in schools has been severely compromised by my big mouth. But it was instilled by my parents, and reinforced by Harper Lee, just how important it is when we see something wrong that we stand up and at least shine a light.
It’s the very least we can do.
Harper Lee’s legacy goes well beyond her two novels and what they mean in American literary, political and social history. Harper Lee’s legacy embraces the impact that her writing had on everyone who enjoyed reading her work. Millions of people across the world.
May she rest in peace.