I want to tell you something I think is important, especially for those raising teenagers and young adults. I have been an avid reader my whole life starting at eight years old. Last night at 65 years old, I saw the play, To Kill A Mockingbird. I can’t remember the exact year that I read this book, sometime in my late teens, high school, perhaps, or shortly thereafter. I saw the movie also around that time. Never have I witnessed the impact that one book had on my life like I did last night, watching this extraordinary production at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. You are what you read. It’s as simple as that. To see the guiding principles of my life come to life before me and ring the remembrance of those lessons taught to me at the exact time they needed to be taught, left me in tearful wonder. Books are powerful and this one most of all. When a young mind is formed by these basic pillars of justice, racial equality, compassion and empathy, those character traits are forged in steel upon one’s psyche in such a manner that no parent, peer or politician can ever alter. My dreamer’s wish for this play is that it become mandatory reading in every classroom, in every state from the 8th grade on. In today’s modern world, it could be a video viewing of this play that’s mandated. It would accomplish the same.
These tenets taught weren’t sparked by the embers of fire and brimstone hypocrisy from a pulpit or a campaign whistle stop. They were taught with the most powerful tool in a teacher’s toolbox; humor and wit that can only come from true wisdom. Humor penetrates the young mind best. All those characters have lived in me for near fifty years, some emulated, some eschewed, but mold me they did. I’ve often wondered how I came to my beliefs. I was not raised by racist parents, but nor was there a lot of discussion about equality for all either. Last night I found out. It was as if I had encountered an old mentor. The kind you don’t even know had an impact on your life until something happens that randomly accesses their place in your soul. The cornerstone of that wisdom imparted to me all those years ago was brought to the forefront of my mind last night. Trying to doing the right thing is just as important as doing the right thing. There comes a time in everyone’s life, when one is faced with a situation that goes against their strict moral code. One must then summon the courage to set that rigid compass aside and instead, take a never traveled path in the dark for a just outcome.
The writing in To Kill a Mocking Bird is superb beyond compare. The production of it at the Pantages was as masterful as it gets. Last night, I wondered just who exactly was Harper Lee? I found she was no great author with a stream of best sellers. She wrote only three books in her 90 years. She was simply a woman with a story to tell. To Kill a Mockingbird came from her keen observation of the life around her, crystallized in her heart and soul and mind and distilled by the lessons she was taught. Harper’s brilliance didn’t need a string of hits. The one she got was more than enough for any author’s lifetime.