by Michelle Oram

I remember watching To Kill A Mockingbird many times when I was little. My mother was a big fan of Gregory Peck.

It began with the opening theme song, a simple innocent melody, which made the hairs on my arm tingle. As the music is played the contents of what seems like a children’s wooden box is revealed, a special box of childhood treasures.

I, too, had a secret childhood box. Mine was an old cigar box, my dad had given me. It was filled with: secret notes, jacks, toys from inside cracker jack boxes, dried flowers, a rabbit’s foot, rock collection and other miscellaneous trinkets. These treasures were gold to me, that I kept hidden so no one could take, locked away with my innocence as I played hop scotch, tag, and explored the many wonders of the neighborhood. My imagination would run with the wind, and at times make me see and imagine scary things that weren’t there. Or maybe they were?

Mary Badham in To Kill a Mockingbird
Mary Badham as “Scout” in To Kill a Mockingbird

I identified with Scout, the main character in To Kill A Mockingbird. She was strong, opinionated, hands on. I felt connected to this movie told from the voice and eyes of a child, like me, much older than her years, perhaps because we grew up without a mother around.

Her father Atticus listened and reasoned with his kids about doing what was right, even when the law was not always just. “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” He taught his kids how to lead by example and kindness and seemed to win over even the crankiest of old ladies.

These lessons had an impact on me-treating people fairly, putting yourself in their shoes. Winning people over with kindness and respect. “Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.” 

The past few weeks I have seen adults strip away and dehumanize the cries of immigrant children, separating them from their parents and putting them in detention shelters like caged animals. I have witnessed what happens when “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

And I am left with the words of Atticus and Miss Maude: “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin To Kill A Mockingbird.” 

Powerful words to live by, which for me meant: don’t take advantage of someone weaker than you.

Because at the end of the day, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee-To Kill a Mockingbird 

If you have never heard the opening theme from To Kill a Mockingbird, please take a moment and listen!