Each of us is more than the worst thing we have done.
Be a stonecatcher.
Fear and anger are a threat to justice.
Mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given.
All of us can do better for one another.
This evening I had the privilege of seeing Bryan Stevenson speak at Butler University. Like most people, I became aware of Bryan through the movie Just Mercy and then through the book of the same name. However, it wasn’t until I taught that book to my We the People class that he made a true impact on me. Seeing how his words, actions, and mission affected my students moved me significantly more than I had expected. And tonight, hearing those words directly from the man himself moved me even more. His passion for justice and his compassion for his fellow man are attributes for which we should all strive. I have listed above some of the most significant themes from Just Mercy. As he spoke to the large crowd in Clowes Hall, these messages were reiterated again through his personal stories and his call to action for all of us. I can’t imagine anyone walked out of there without thinking about how they were going to do better for those less fortunate and those who have found themselves facing injustice. I was no exception.
As I drove home, reflecting on Stevenson’s words, numerous ways for me to “become involved” ran through my mind. I was ready to send money, visit prisons, contact politicians, volunteer for an organization…you name it. Of course, this led me to reflect on my time and talents and where they would best be utilized. It is not as if I haven’t had these thoughts before, but I want them to be more than thoughts. I want to act on these feelings and not let them pass until the next moment I am stirred by someone’s words. The reality is that I am not in a place in my life where I can add a new undertaking to my already busy schedule. Fortunately, I have realized that “new” is not necessary. I simply have to take this desire to an area of my life where it most naturally fits- school.
School is filled with those that need someone to listen. School is filled with those that are victims of injustice. School is filled with those “less fortunate”. School is filled with those that need mercy. While I have always viewed myself as someone who cares for his students and someone who looks out for their best interests, I know that I can do more. I vow to actively seek out those that need someone. I will make sure they know I am there as an advocate. I will show them that I know they are more than the worst thing they have done. In Just Mercy, and in his talk tonight, Bryan speaks about those who are broken. And he comes to the conclusion that not only is he working with those who are broken, but he is broken himself. I believe most of us are broken (which I plan on writing about soon), however some students are in more need of repair than others. It is comfortable to focus on the kids who “play school” well and just need a little push or challenge to move them on. It is uncomfortable to address some of the issues these kids are facing. It is uncomfortable to have difficult conversations. It is uncomfortable to risk failing. But I will not worry about the uncomfortable because, as Bryan said tonight, change never occurs without it. I will do better for these students. I will freely give them mercy and work to instill hope in them. I will be a stonecatcher.