Monday, December 14, 2015

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson and me!

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
                  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

My friend, Alicia, recommended Bryan Stevenson’s book to me, and I put it on my list. Then one of the members of my book club, Katie, sent me a warm message about Bryan Stevenson. I googled him and was completed fascinated by his work with the people many of us literally turn our backs on: the incarcerated. During my research on Bryan Stevenson, I came across his TED talk, and My People, I was moved to uncontrollable tears, and I have been thinking constantly about identity and what defines who we are. During my research, I also found out that he would be in DC to speak on prison reform, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet this incredible man face to face. His presence, spirit, and passion were all over this packed church, and he had the ability to make me sit on the edge of my seat and silently cry as he spoke about people whom he has met on his journey for justice. 

After my research on Bryan Stevenson, I approached his book, Just Mercy, with high hopes, and it did not disappoint.

I just love the writing style of this book. Stevenson goes back and forth in this novel by telling his personal story of navigating the justice system to telling the unbelievable story about one of his clients, Walter McMillian, who was framed for a murder that it was apparent that he did not commit, and he was sentenced to death. 

Now, Bryan’s story of how he came to work with the justice system and his experiences with the justice system are quite moving and powerful, but Walter McMillan’s story had me frantically reading wanting to desperately believe that his story just could not be true. If Bryan had not followed his calling and had not gone to Alabama to start The Equal Justice Initiative, I believe, with my whole heart, that Walter McMillian would have been executed for a crime that he did not commit. (Our purpose is always connected to helping others.) 

Reading this book the word empathy, empathy, empathy, empathy..... would not leave my mind. I believe that our purposes are all about helping other people and especially those who may not have a voice of their own including the young, old, and poor. I truly believe that in order to fully empathize with people, we must find it in our hearts to be able to “rejoice when others rejoice, and weep when others weep.”

Bryan Stevenson is a Harvard educated lawyer, and I am sure that he had and have lots of career options. However, he chose to go to Alabama and work for the incarcerated; people whom many of us never think about. Bryan works relentlessly and tirelessly for people whose names we may never know, and at the beginning of his career, there was very little financial reward. Now, I know that many of us have read the poem about the servant leader, and reading this book and being in the presence of Bryan, there is no doubt that he is a servant leader....

 The Paradoxes of Being a Servant Leader 

Strong enough to be weak
Successful enough to fail
Busy enough to make time
Wise enough to say "I don't know"
Serious enough to laugh
Rich enough to be poor
Right enough to say "I'm wrong"
Compassionate enough to discipline
Mature enough to be childlike
Important enough to be last
Planned enough to be spontaneous
Controlled enough to be flexible
Free enough to endure captivity
Knowledgeable enough to ask questions
Loving enough to be angry
Great enough to be anonymous
Responsible enough to play
Assured enough to be rejected
Victorious enough to lose
Industrious enough to relax
Leading enough to serve

Poem by Brewer --- as cited by Hansel, in Holy Sweat, Dallas Texas, Word, 1987. (p29)

This book is one of those books that I want every person in the world to read in order to learn about the US criminal justice system, to pay closer attention to what’s going on with the justice system, to act within our circles of influence, and to feel a little empathy for others and definitely those who are considered to be the least amongst us.

This is not a feel good book, but I do think that this a book that will cause a person to rethink his life, ideas, and purpose. READ THIS BOOK!

Bryan Stevenson is on tour, and if you happen to see your city on his travel list, it may be worth your time to hear what this guy has to say.

I will leave you with the words of Bryan Stevenson: “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.” 

I feel inspired to run on to see what the end is gonna be.......

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