“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout,” Atticus advises his daughter, “you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Penned by the acclaimed author Harper Lee, the above words are still ringing in our ears as we look out at our world today. In an election year, opposing voices seem to be growing louder and louder and it just feels like tensions everywhere are high. So much of what we look out and see, be it politics or race relations or the Oscars, is people entrenched in their views, huddled in their corners rallying for a bigger fight.
But Atticus Finch, Lee’s fictional lawyer from Maycomb, Alabama, hits on an idea a lot of us seem to have forgotten – empathy. Finch, a lawyer who defends an innocent black man in court in a time when it was not popular to do so, exemplifies this idea of sharing in the feelings and experiences of another human. Empathy invites us to stop defending our own view for a second and try on someone else’s, to consider, even briefly, why someone else thinks the way they do. We seem to be losing this art.
Whether you support Sanders or Trump or Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar, step into the viewpoint of someone completely different than you and try it on for a while. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’ll at least gain a bit of understanding as to why they believe what they do. Like Atticus says, learning such a practice enables us to get along better with all kinds of people different from us.
On February 19, 2016, Harper Lee, 89, died in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, left the world quietly, but her words won’t be out of our heads any time soon. Lee’s bestselling novel, while often regarded as a children’s book, profoundly explores the weighty themes of injustice, racial tensions, and empathy. At the time of its publication in 1960, the novel made a lot of noise in the literary world and we are still talking about it 56 years later.
Maybe you’ve long forgotten the story since you read it in your high school English course. Odds are, even then 16-year-old you wasn’t paying close attention to the story in your hands. But now that you’re a few years older, check out a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird from the library or order a copy on Amazon Prime, because we think it might do us all some good to revisit the story of Scout, Jem and Atticus.
Climb into the pages and see if you don’t walk out with a different point of view.
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