I got to see the brand new movie The Help last night, and I LOVED it! I was nervous beforehand--because I had fallen in love with the characters and the story when I read the book a couple of years ago. I was nervous the movie wouldn't measure up. But, it was wonderful! It far exceeded my expectations! I laughed and laughed, and cried. One time, I even nearly started crying out loud. Really--if you have a chance--you should not miss this movie. You can't help but be inspired by its message of having the courage to do what is right, even when unpopular, or even illegal.
Now, I have hesitated a dozen times today in writing some personal thoughts about the movie's theme... Mostly, because I do not want to diminish the movie--or the story--one bit. Both are well-written, and wonderful depictions of the Civil Rights South.
I do hope everyone understands--especially non-Southerners--that every period of history has its group of small-minded people. There have been bigots and horrible people since the beginning of time. And, certainly, we have our share of selfish, self-serving, and downright mean people today.
But, let's please not forget that since the beginning of time, there have also been loving people, people with courage, and people with the moral conviction to make the hard choices. Where would we be today without our heroes throughout history, shining light on the moral paths?
I just hope the people watching The Help understand that although the Civil Rights South is a dark spot in our country's history and a sorrowful time for so many black people; that not all the white people living in that era were like "Hilly" in the movie.
My family had maids. We NEVER ONCE referred to them as "the help." We wouldn't even have considered it. I cringe just to write those words. We only called our maids by their names, and we loved them like our own family. I can remember wanting to stay home from school some days--just so I could sit on my bed and get to be with Erma while she ironed in my bedroom.
And that sentiment didn't change as we grew up, like the movie talks about. I remember many Sundays when we'd sit around Miss Lillian's tiny living room--the Miss Lillian that my daddy adored, because she helped raise him after his mom died, and before his dad remarried. We loved hearing Miss Lillian tell stories about our dad as a little boy. She always had a gleam in her eye, and wide toothy smile when she'd tell those stories.
The whole time I was watching The Help, I tried to remember families in my hometown who may have acted as horribly as Hilly and her husband. I realize that I grew up in the decade after the Civil Rights Movement, so either bigotry to that degree had dissolved by then in our town, or maybe my family just didn't associate with people like that? Certainly, there was still some personal prejudice I remember. But I never saw anyone treated like the maids in the movie.
Through the years, I've visited a lot about this subject with my dad, who also grew up in our Southern hometown. He said he and his friends just didn't know what was going on at the time--they didn't know or understand how bad things were in towns like Jackson and Montgomery. They saw terrible images on the news, but none of it related to anything they experienced in their town. They didn't really think about having separate schools, water fountains, or movie entrances. That's just the way things had always been. They didn't know life could be any different.
Dad's family had a black man named Mose who worked in their yard and around the house for years and years. To say my dad loved Mose is an understatement. Mose was his companion, his teacher of songs and phrases, his story-teller, and most importantly, his friend. Dad says the only time he really wondered why things were "different" was when his parents were out-of-town, and Mose would stay overnight with the kids. Dad said he never understood why Mose wouldn't sleep in a bed, or even sit on any of the furniture in the house. He would really nag Mose to sleep in a bed--but Mose never would, he always said he was more comfortable on the floor, right next to my dad's bed. Dad says he's sure his parents never told Mose he couldn't sit on the furniture, or sleep in a bed. That's just the way things were then.
"That's just the way things are" is a good sign it's time to start a movement...like the Civil Rights Movement. People--kind-hearted and evil alike--may be blind to a different and better way to live. Our country needed men and women like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks to shake things up, and shine light on a better path.
But, even though we need a hero to shine a light on a better path, that doesn't mean the hero is the only good guy around. Sometimes, it's just the hero that is the visionary to point to the moral path, that even the good guys are blind to. Oh, sure, there are always selfish and evil people blocking the way to every moral path. But, there are also kind-hearted, well-meaning people who will move toward the moral path, once it's pointed out.
Man, I sound like I'm preaching now!! Preach it, Sista Kay!