this post has been brewing in me the last few weeks.
now the last thing i would call myself is a righteous man, but i do make it my mission to always act in the name of whats ‘right’. as a kid, i was obsessed with the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. i guess what i really loved about that book was that each time i read it, i saw it in a different way. as a 5th grader, i read about the adventures and excitement of summertime and childhood in small town america in some older and simpler times. i didnt understand mrs. dubose, the opium addict, who struggled on her death bed to free herself from addiction. i didnt understand the struggle between right and wrong taking place on every page – why it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.
atticus finch teaches jem and scout about the courage to do whats right through the example of mrs. dubose. naturally, atticus is the moral compass permanently set towards the moral magnetic north, and through trials and tribulations the young kids learn about why other people do what they do and how they themselves can do right. the most important sequence in this theme involves atticus shooting an old rabid dog dead in the middle of the street; although the whole town knew atticus to be an expert shot with a rifle, he never fired a weapon unless it was necessary and never bragged of his gifts. jem and scout were amazed at the authority with which their father commanded the rifle, yet he never told them he was an expert shot, knowing that doing so would unfairly bias his children into believing this authority over life and death somehow was worthy of respect. instead, atticus makes example out of mrs. dubose:
i wanted you to see something about her – i wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. its when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. you rarely win, but sometimes you do. mrs. dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. she died beholden to nothing and nobody. she was the bravest person i ever knew.
anyways, what im getting at here is how to do the right thing. i see it every day – people who choose not to do the right thing. you may ask how one defines ‘the right thing’. there are many resources that tell you how to act morally correct: the bible, the qur’an, sesame street. but i really believe doing the ‘the right thing’ means acting in love, not hate (see spike lee’s Do the Right Thing clip – which is an awesome movie if you havent seen it). thats the only real way to do the right thing… just love, not hate. say thank you to the bus driver, dont pee on the toilet seat, dont use derogatory words in reference to people different than yourself and this world will be a better place. every day we get a thousand opportunities to choose between love and hate, and far too often we choose hate. who knows, but someday each one of us may have the choice between whats right and difficult or whats wrong and easy. if you want to hate, you will always find a reason to hate… theres a million things to hate in this world and each one is a tool to be used against an idea, a person etc. you can hate yourself, you can hate religions or those who choose not to be religious, you can hate politics, you will always find a way to hate, and each time it will be a tragedy of failed love. but true strength is finding a reason to love, and to do the right thing even when its hard. thats real courage.