Tuesday, July 25, 2017


We fear what we don’t know.  What we can’t see.  What we can’t explain.  The great thing about a mystery is the freedom it gives us to speculate.  It gives us permission to hypothesize and imagine.  But our minds tend to wander away from us.

And lie to us.

Boo Radly is a fictional character.  His real first name is Arthur.  He was dreamed up by Harper Lee for the sake of her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

But we all know a “Boo.”

The original Boo Radley was a young man who lived most of his life in the shadows.  He was different.  He was misunderstood.  He kept to himself.

But because he lived in the little town of Maycomb, everyone knew him.  Well, they knew of him.  No one really knew him.

He was rumored to have bitten off one of his mother’s fingers.  He supposedly ate squirrels and cats.  It was believed that Boo’s teeth were yellow and rotten, his eyes were bugged, and he drooled most of the day.

With each passing year that people chose not to know Boo, the tales grew taller and taller.

You know “Boo” don’t you?

Boo is that one to whom no one speaks, but about whom everyone talks.  Boo is rumored to support a particular political candidate, eat a certain kind of food, and listen to a unique style of music.  Boo is believed to lack compassion, hold grudges, and drink too much wine.  Boo must have some kind of past that follows him.  Boo must have perfected the filter function on his iPhone.  But no one really knows.  And, sadly, no one cares to know him.

The truth might damage the legend.  No one wants the facts to get in the way of a good story.    

So we stay away.  We whisper.  We gossip.  We fear.

In the novel, one of the children who perpetuated the myths of Boo eventually came face to face with him.  On a dark night, someone tried to hurt her.  In her time of need, out of the shadows, Boo appeared.  And he saved her life.  

There he was.  Their own boogeyman was standing in front of them.  And he wasn’t so bad.  He wasn’t so big.  He had his teeth.  He even had a grin.

It’s sad to think of all that wasted time.  They could have been friends.  They could have made memories.  She could have helped the people of the town see the real Boo.

There are scary people all around us.  They seem to live in the shadows.  Because we haven’t taken the time to know them, we fear them.  We criticize them.  Out of our own guilt, we marginalize them. We attack them from behind.

The truth is that often these hard to figure out mysterious individuals are good people.  Potential heroes.  “Boos.”

They just need someone to believe in them.

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