I’ll tell you about the first thing I was morally sure of.
I was young. My older sister and I were sitting in our den, watching To Kill a Mockingbird on TV. I hadn’t read Harper Lee’s novel then, and didn’t understand the themes. But something happened to me the night I saw that film.
As the story of this 1930s Alabama town unfolded, my sister and I met Atticus Finch, the lawyer with horn-rimmed glasses … Tom Robinson, the young black man accused of harming a woman in a way I didn’t comprehend … And Atticus’ children Jem and Scout. They loved spying on the house of their neighbor, Boo Radley — someone they’d never seen but heard awful things about.
The part in the movie I remember best is the scene after Tom Robinson’s trial. It’s when Atticus must visit Tom’s mother to tell her her son’s been shot and accidentally killed. As they wait inside the car, Jem and Scout watch Atticus as he taps on the Robinson’s door and is let inside the house. Seconds later, there’s a cry and the screen door bursts open. Tom’s mother comes out onto the porch, bent over, her long arms limp in grief.
That fictional screen door echoes for me now. Seeing Tom’s mother, and Atticus and his children sharing in her grief, my heart hurt with them. Up until that point, I’d never cared what happened to anyone else, outside my family or myself. As Atticus would say, I’d never walked around in someone else’s shoes. But then I knew I had to always try.
Near the end of the film, the children finally meet Boo Radley. They’ve learned so many lessons in so short a time. But they realize that Boo isn’t so frightening after all, and that people will surprise you if you let them.
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