One of my favorite movie scenes of all time occurs at the end of the final Harry Potter film, when Harry realizes that in order to triumph over Voldemort, the villain of the series, he has to sacrifice himself. As Harry approaches Voldemort, a circle of support—his deceased parents, teachers and friends—magically surrounds him, with the various individuals within it offering him words of advice, encouragement and love.
While most of us won’t ever find ourselves needing to wand-battle an evil sorcerer, we’ll face our own share of adversity within our lives, and just like Harry, we need a circle of support to help us face our challenges and fears with courage, strength and fortitude.
When I consider my circle of support, I realize that in addition to including family members, friends, mentors and role models, it also includes people whom I haven’t met: historical figures, political and spiritual leaders, artists and writers. It even includes some fictional characters.
For an example, it includes Atticus Finch, the beloved father figure in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman.” In “Go Set a Watchman” the protagonist Jean Louise (affectionally known as Scout to the readers of Lee’s classic TKMB) reflects on the gentleman that her father Atticus Finch is. She talks about how no one—not even his enemies—has a bad word to say about Atticus because he treats all people, regardless of his personal feelings for them, with kindness and respect.
I turn to Atticus Finch for inspiration anytime I’m about to enter a challenging social situation or have an interaction with someone whom I find difficult. I channel his manners, compassion and class, remembering that all people are worthy of kindness and respect, regardless of my personal feelings toward them. Imagining Atticus Finch—who looks just like Gregory Peck, of course! —has helped me maintain composure and act in a way that I won’t later regret on more than one occasion.
Who is in your circle of support? Who are the people whose advice you seek when you don’t know how to handle a tough situation? Who do you know will offer you unconditional love, no matter the circumstances? Whose presence calms you? Who inspires you do to the right thing? How can you channel their way of being into your everyday life?
Considering these questions can help you cultivate character and be the best version of yourself.
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Teresa lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church and dabbles in hospital chaplaincy. She has a BA in English, a Master’s in Divinity, and a passion for thinking about the intersection of spirituality, self-improvement, and well-being. Her perfect day includes slowly savoring a morning cup of coffee, reading for work and for fun, and receiving snail mail.