I want to share with you someone else’s words tonight. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, an activist, a system changer. He wrote the most inspiring book: Just Mercy. This book made me angry and joy filled, sad and happy, horrified and hopeful. It reminded me of the reality of the world we live in. The reality that there are really horrible selfish close-minded people but also the reality that there are amazing, loving, hardworking, justice promoting people. I hate more than anything all the bad things that happen in the world, but there is nothing better than watching great people come around brokenness and bring hope and healing.
Here are some passages/quotes that impacted me:
“Proximity has sought me some basic and humbling truths, including the vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth: The opposite of poetry is justice. Finally I have come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measure by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned. ” (17-18)
“‘We’ve all been through a lot, Bryan, all of us. I know that some have been through more than others. But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed'”(126) (This from a couple who helped their grandson’s accused killer graduate from high-school and paid for his college)
“All of a sudden, I felt stronger. I began thinking about what would happen if we all just acknowledged our brokenness, if we owned up to our weaknesses, our deficits, our biases, our fears. maybe if we did, we wouldn’t want to kill the broken among us who have killed others. Maybe we would look harder for solutions to caring for the disabled, the abused the neglected and the traumatized. I had a notion that if we acknowledged our brokenness, we could no longer take pride in mass incarceration in executing people, in our deliberate indifference to the most vulnerable” (291)
“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the underserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent- strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic hard and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration” (294)
“All these young children being sent to prison forever, all this grief and violence. All those judges throwing people away like they’re not even human, people shooting each other, hurting each other like they don’t care. I don’t know, it’s a lot of pain. I decided that I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other. “ (308) (Words from a women the author met at the courthouse for a appeal hearing)
This book is full of stories, success stories and stories of injustice and despair. But I loved how the author called readers out to look deeper into the humanity of people. I love the idea of being a “stone catcher”. The image of angry people full of hate, or sorrow or anger, throwing a figurative stone at someone to try to make sense of their despair, but we can be the person who catches that stone. A person who protects, who stops hate, who shows other ways to cope; to “hope better for one another”.