I know the story. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of my favorite books. I love the movie as well, but there is something about the written word and reading a powerful thought that stays with a person longer than any scene in a film. Only eleven pages into the book, Harper Lee formed a sentence that holds a mirror to all of our faces.
There is speculation by two of the children in the book as to why they never see their neighbor’s mysterious son (Boo Radley). Rumors of who this son is and what he has done fill the little town and feed on the imagination of these children. One of the children came to the conclusion that Boo was chained to the bed most of the time. Atticus, the children’s father said, “No, it wasn’t that sort of thing, there were other ways of making people into ghosts.”
“There are other ways of making people into ghosts.” Oh, how we do that at times. We don’t go about our days with this as our intention. You see, those who are hungry, thirsty, in need or imprisoned aren’t always so obvious to us. We stand beside the mother in a grocery store line who silently says, “I hunger for someone to smile at me today.” A much-needed smile would raise her head. Our looking away leaves her hungry and invisible once more…. she once again becomes a ghost in her world.
There are those who, in their aloneness, thirst to hear their name said.
One phone call, one utterance of their name and the thirst is quenched for that day. One moment of procrastination on our part and we have made another ghost….another person remains alone and invisible in the world.
There are potential ghosts sitting in the pews of our churches every Sunday. There are children who need to be clothed in gentleness, quiet words and peace. There are those who are sick of heart and need to feel the healing touch of a hug. There are visitors who slip quietly into our churches yet desperately need to know that others have noticed their presence. There is the faithful employee who needs to hear “good job.”
To look into someone’s eyes instead of looking away…to smile instead of choosing not to…to hug or touch a shoulder instead of withholding a brief moment of healing…to utter a kind and encouraging word instead of being silent…to offer time instead of looking at your watch…all of these things are reflections of the very acts of kindness and compassion that Jesus would offer to another. Compassion flows naturally from one who has the heart of Jesus Christ. It flows into our shelters and prisons, yes, but it also flows into the lives of those thirsty ones, those hungry ones, those strangers, and those who feel imprisoned by life’s circumstances…those people whom we bump into every single day of our lives. There are “other ways”…. other ways to “make ghosts of people” as Harper Lee so poignantly wrote.
So, the ones who have been made “ghosts” by other means ask us what the leper asks Jesus. “Are you willing? Are you willing to make me clean?”
And with an outstretched hand, a look deep into the man’s eyes and a gentle touch, Jesus says “Yes, I am willing.”
Am I willing? Are you willing?
Luke 5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.[a] When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.