At the end of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee writes,
I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Why were they all standing? This wasn’t a case of the black man having to stand for the white man. No, they wanted to. What compelled them to treat this one with respect who was on the same side of humanity’s pigment lottery as the ones they had known all their lives who treated them like dirt? They knew he gave his all for them. They knew he loved them. Now, if you asked Atticus if he loved them, you might not get that out of his lips, but the fact remains: they knew he valued them, not for their money or their position or the color of their skin. He valued them because they were human. To Atticus, that made you valuable.
He earned their respect. He didn’t demand it, force it out of them, or care whether he received it or not. His actions were performed not for their approval but because they were the right actions to take.
All this analysis of Atticus Finch is fine and well, but if it doesn’t lead to some analysis of me, it is really a waste of time. Two questions have been running through my head since I read this. One, do I honor those who deserve honor, unashamedly? Two, do I perform and make decisions for the approval of others or because it is the right thing to do?