The Critical Mass

Don’t kill the mockingbird

This morning’s walk with the dog coincided with garbage pick-up day. Today’s garbage trucks have a huge claw that seizes the big green bin, raises it high in the air, turns it upside down over the yawning, undoubtedly disgusted pit on the back of the truck, shakes it, and sets down the bin at the edge of the driveway. The guys don’t even get out of the truck anymore. Kinda sad, professional trash picking is becoming a lost art. I know old-school garbage men who talk about finding all kinds of interesting discarded items along their routes. Hands-on garbage men who once a week were recognizable and welcome members of the neighborhood, building casual relationships. I know garbage men who tell me they’d get presents at Christmastime. Like a six pack of beer, wrapped in a ribbon, sitting on the bin.

to_kill_a_mocking_birdSummer Mondays like this, following summer weekends like we just had, mean the curbs will be piled high with extra detritus. Stuff from people cleaning out garages, basements, attics and the bedrooms of recently deceased parents. I drag home scrap wood to burn in the chimea and, much to my surprise, books. Usually uninteresting-looking young-adult books that have outgrown their usefulness. But sometimes, good ones.

This morning I found a paperback copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Books often carry clues of their personal history. On the inside of the front cover of this book is a stamp, “Monroe High School.”

But mostly, books are a shared experience. You read the same words that I read. And To Kill a Mockingbird is full of stunning words:

“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.”

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”

“There are just some kind of men…who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one.”

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To Kill a Mockingbird was the only book ever written by Harper Lee. But it’s full of wisdom. Bible-like words. I already had a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. But I’ll keep this found copy. Until I find someone who needs it.

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