It has been a long time coming, but we finally started To Kill a Mockingbird this week. At this point, I suspect you guys know as much about the novel as a group of young adults could possibly know. For sure you know the novel was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was set in the early 1930's. If you do not, well, then simply shame on you because you have most definitely heard it no less than a bazillion times. We started with the opening chapter early in the week. I really loved introducing you guys to Boo Radley, although truth be told, you already met him in another work when he was called Edward Scissorhands or The Grinch. That's the coolest part about literature. The characters and ideas are universal. If you pay close attention, you will see the same characters over and over again on different pages and in life. As we have learned, Boo is really just a scary legend the town of Maycomb has created to satisfy their own need for drama. We used one of my favorite lines earlier in the week for bell work. It's where Atticus tells Jem that there are other ways of turning people into ghosts. We talked about what it means to be someone who is like a ghost: in other words, present but never really seen.
For an extra credit assignment, I encouraged each of you to take the time to meet someone new, find out about the person, listen, notice, care, and then report back to the class. I also accepted the ghost challenge and agreed to try to meet a new person per class period for a total of six. I am going to be honest here. I designed the assignment so you guys would stretch yourselves and put down the phones long enough to talk to an actual person, but what I found (which is something I find often) was in trying to teach you guys, I learned the most. I talked to more people than I ever have and stretched myself to be more aware of my surroundings, specifically with those who seem to be alone in this world, those who are unnoticed by others.
So, here is my ghost challenge. I have not told any of you about it, but if you are reading this, I hope you will remember his name. I met Mr. Kenny Boone at the Farm Hill baseball park. Sunday afternoon, my husband and my two sons went to the park to let our boys play for a bit. It was a beautiful spring day, the kind you want to bottle up. We were the only people at the park when I spotted Mr. Kenny sitting across the park in a motorized wheelchair. He waved at all the cars that passed. I wondered how he ended up in the wheelchair, where he came from, what his normal day was like. Had it not been for the ghost challenge, I most likely would have never noticed, or simply wondered without taking the time to try to get to know him. After twenty minutes or so, I asked my four year old son if he wanted to walk over and show the man his bike. He did. I love this about kids. They always want to approach the unapproachable. They have no preconceived ideas about anyone yet. I wonder if this is why Boo picked Scout and Jem to befriend. He knew they would accept him.
Right there in the Florida sunshine, my son and I sparked up a memorable discussion with Mr. Kenny. He is 70 years old. His birthday is August 4th. He's lived on the same piece of property for 50 years and remembered when the road we were standing on was not paved. The chair has not always been his life. He said he loved to hunt and fish as a young man and had prize winning race horses that he loved to ride, but his bones had deteriorated through the years. He told us he had fallen with his walker four times in the last year, and since he lives alone with his parents passing away years ago, the fire department had to come and pick him up off the floor after each bad fall. Now, it looks like the rest of his years will be spent in this chair, waving at cars going by each day. He said hardly anyone stops to talk to him, but he sure enjoyed the company. Halfway into our conversation, my son wanted to go the playground, but it was a little ways away. I did not want to leave Mr. Kenny, but I knew my son would not relent on the issue of the playground. I guess Mr. Kenny knew too because he said, "How 'bout we race? Me on my wheels and you on yours." I followed behind them and thought to myself, "Look at that, Mr. Kenny is smoking that Hot Wheels bike."
At the playground my accident prone son fell and busted his lip on the monkey bars. It was the smallest dab of blood ever, barely visible even with a microscope. He was convinced it was a ruptured aorta and was crying hysterically. Mr. Kenny took a clean napkin from his pocket, and said, "Here, he can have this. I haven't used it." It reminded me of the gifts Boo left in the knothole for Scout or the blanket he wrapped around her in the cold.
The sun faded into twilight. We said goodbye to Mr. Kenny. That night I got home and emptied my pockets. In it was the napkin that comforted my son, wiped away his blood.
I think we will go back to the park. When we do, I know we will look for Mr. Kenny. He was a nice man.
Atticus is right. Most people are if you take the time to really see them.
I want to turn more ghosts into people this year,