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Book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication date: 2014
Source: Hardcover from library
Summary: Just Mercy tells the story of attorney Bryan Stevenson’s work with prisoners on death-row (not all of them guilty), children jailed for life (not all of them for violent crimes), and the unlawful treatment of imprisoned women and the mentally ill. The book is autobiography, but often the focus is on the clients rather than on the lawyer who is telling their stories. Many of those stories are heart-wrenching, but somehow the book manages to be inspiring. Our justice system can clearly be more just while also being more merciful — people like Bryan Stevenson are leading the way.
Thoughts: Our book club discussed Just Mercy last week. One of our responses was to marvel at how many good things Bryan Stevenson has accomplished in his life and wonder why we haven’t done as much in ours.
That made me think of something that I just read from The Eleventh Step in Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. The Eleventh Step is Recognition.
The first story that Armstrong tells is about Christina Noble, a woman who experienced a childhood alone and homeless in Ireland. A powerful dream led her to Vietnam where she ended up becoming a “crusader for the street children” and built a children’s center with donations from all over the world. She recognized herself in the face of a girl in Vietnam. And, then she found ways “to work practically to alleviate the pain of others.”
Reading about Christina Noble and Bryan Stevenson is both inspiring and discouraging. I want to act in that way but I feel much less bold and much too fearful. It feels too late in life. I have too many responsibilities. I don’t know how. I don’t know what cost it takes to devote one’s life to others in such a way.
Armstrong has a bit of reassurance on that last point.
So look at your world anew, and do not leave this step until you have chosen your mission. There is a need that you–and only you–can fulfill. Do not imagine that you are doomed to a life of grim austerity or that your involvement in suffering will drain your life of fun. In fact, you may find that alleviating the distress of others makes you a good deal happier. p. 169
She then goes on to quote Christina Noble about all the things she enjoys — singing in clubs, drinking and dancing, and riding a motorcycle.
How do you respond to stories of people doing great good in the world?