Friday, July 30, 2010

Mr. Arthur Radley

Soldiers, fire fighters, police officers--all those who fight for the rest of us when we cannot fight ourselves--undergo extensive training. They build their bodies to endure. They prepare their minds as best they can for the emergencies and traumas they will face. They become a brother and sisterhood so that they can defend and protect even when their own lives are in danger. Surely such training guarantees courage when the time for courage arrives.

But alas, training alone does not instill courage. Sometimes the most physically fit, agile, and resourceful individuals will stand in place and holler like little girls when real danger steals safety from beneath their feet. Some never find the courage to stand for another as Atticus did. Some never cast fear into the depths and look upon another day with hope as Miss Maudie did. Some of us will not find the courage to try one day after another to become stronger and more whole as Mrs. Dubose did, and some will never rush into a burning building to save a lifetime of possessions as Mr. Avery did.

Some will recoil from harm as Boo Radley did. Once a mischievous teen whose worst act was tipping over an outhouse on Halloween night, he became a pale recluse, hidden from view, the topic of gossip and conjecture until so much time had passed that he was virtually a ghost, nothing more than a memory except in the fantasies of children. There he loomed as a malignant spirit on the prowl at night.

Boo was not in training all those years, yet he became the hero when Fate called a hero. He saved Scout and Jem by killing Bob Ewell, a predator who lacked the courage to strike straight on, face to face, at his enemies. He could only trail children through the woods at night, and in striking them down, he tried to bring down his real target, Atticus.

Mr. Arthur Radley—Boo—wore no uniform and had no formal training. Still, he had the courage of soldiers, fire fighters, and police officers. He did not hesitate when someone—anyone—was needed to save the children. He stepped in harm’s way and protected those who could not protect themselves.