Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reflections on The Help

    Watching The Help was an emotional roller coaster for me. I thought I was prepared because I had read the book, but I wasn't. I talked a good game beforehand, but when I got in there it all hit me: waves of horror, disgust, and deep sadness washed over me, juxtaposed against interludes of hilarity and joy, coupled with vibrant comic relief.  Like I said, it was a roller coaster. I shed big hot tears a few times during the movie and when it ended I wanted to get off by myself, in a private corner and have a good old fashioned heaving, gulping sort of cry. But, I hadn't gone to the movie alone.  I was with a group of women: black, white, and multi-racial, who had come together to see the movie from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Some were friends and some were strangers. I was an emotional mess, but I fought the urge to run away and cry as I joined the others on the front lawn of the theatre for a lengthy conversation.
    Originally our group had planned to go out to a restaurant, but the small-town streets of Franklin roll up about 10:00 on a weeknight, so we nonchalantly sat down on the grass close to where our cars were parked.
    I don't really want to talk about all that was said on that front lawn. It was an intimate moment afforded six women in a unique setting at a unique time. Some of the words that were spoken that night made me weep later. Others have given me pause and made me take another deep hard look at myself. I don't want to be prejudiced. I don't want to be a racist. I want to value each human being I encounter and count them as a valid image bearer of the Living God. But in truth I often fail miserably.
   The good that has come out of this process of introspection is I have come to a painful place of self-revelation, one that deals with my own propensity to label or categorize others. Take a deep breath. Here goes. When I pass judgment on a person, I am usually either assuming a position of superiority or I am coming from a place of fear. It sounds so simple. But the truth is never simple when it is ours. I am appalled that I have been so blind. Arrogance or fear. No in-between. Just those two extremes. I have tried to think of a single exception of a case where I judged another and wasn't guilty of one of those two, but in truth I cannot come up with any. Not a single one. That's a pretty good litmus test in my book that I might be on to something.
    If I am brutally honest, that means that I have more in common with too many of the white folks in The Help. They are afraid of the diseases the black people might carry, but they let them kiss, love and raise their children, entrusting them to impart important values along the way, "You are kind, you are beautiful, you are important."
   Oh, in this New Millenium I might not object to the black person or the Hispanic or the Muslim, but I often castigate and condemn those whose political or moral views differ vastly from my own.  And they are usually white people who look just like me. I just hate their politics or their attitudes or their ideas. I somehow think that I am morally superior to them. I am the enlightened one. They are...well they are to be pitied above all else for their ignorance and the error of their ways. Just how arrogant can one get? I am not looking too good here, am I?
   And we haven't even broached the subject of fear. That's when I really find myself backed into a corner.
I get afraid when the homeless man comes up to me in the parking lot of the gas station and surprises me when I am bending over picking up something from my back seat. I am terrified. I am vulnerable. I want him to get away from me. He sees the fear in my eyes and says, "Lady, I aint' gonna hurt you." But I am not so sure. I think to myself, "You can never be sure about the homeless." And there I am with my prejudice sticking out of me like a sore thumb. I have seen it when I least expect it. It is not pretty. Fear breeds ugliness. It also breeds more fear. And I need the cure.
     There was a lot of truth exposed in "The Help." As first I was disconcerted with the idea of yet another do-gooder white girl from the right side of the tracks riding in on her white horse to help the oppressed black maids find their voice. But Skeeter was only the bridge to the real story. The real story is about the black maids and the white trash white woman who individually and collectively are able to make their lives and their struggles so real and so personal that we ache. We ache deeply. And we walk out of that movie offended by the injustice of life then and really wanting life NOW to be different. It's what makes the movie, The Help, not just a movie, but a message and a transcendent one at that. Abileen and Minnie and Celia and Skeeter force me to look, not at those around me, but at myself.
     That is where change can and must always begin. I talked earlier about the cure. For me the cure is the redemption of Christ: that He would take a wretch like me and change me from within. That he would take my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. That He would take away my spirit of fear and give me a Spirit, His Spirit...that is one of power and love and sound mind. Fear and arrogance are the antithesis of Jesus. He is the Repairer of the Breach, the Redeemer and the Reconciler. And His greatest commandment is that we love one another. No exceptions. None indeed. Not one.
photo courtesy of The


  1. Um, wow! Thanks Kathy for your candid confession. I will be directing others to this post. I really enjoyed meeting you and sharing this experience with you.

  2. I read the book and definately want to see the movie. Great to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundayss. Sorry to be so late to be visiting.

    - The Tablescaper


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