The gate is fairly quiet tonight. I fixed my breakfast around 11 p.m. and turned on the TV. The clip that was playing was a trailer for the movie, The Help.
Typically behind the times, I’m writing about The Help after most of you have probably already read the book or seen the movie. This isn’t a review and I haven’t seen the movie. I’m a gate guard, I don’t see movies until they come to Direct TV. And since, even on TV, you have to buy new releases, the only one I’ve spent $4.99 on in 9 months was The King’s Speech, which I did enjoy, but that’s not what this post is about.
The Help, if you don’t already know, is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. I was small and so was my world in the summer of 1963. I lived in the tiny town of Middlebury, Indiana, which was a about a million miles from Jackson, and where racial diversity meant we had a lot of horse and buggies tied up at the hitching post just down the street from our house.
I might have been able to tell you where Mississippi was because I loved my map puzzle, but I couldn’t have told you anything about the climate, weather or political.
I read The Help almost a year ago, before all the buzz and before the movie. So while I can’t speak to the movie, I can tell you how the book affected me.
Although it’s a work of fiction, the historical references aren’t. I still find it to be stunning that all this was happening in my lifetime. I was completely oblivious. We did watch Walter Cronkite every night, but I guess at age 6, I wasn’t paying very close attention.
When I read the book, I kept thinking, surely this must have been a long, long time ago, when people still thought the world was flat.
But this isn’t really a post about that either. It’s about other lessons from the book that I wish I’d learned back in 1963, the summer before I started first grade.
Here’s the first one:
The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was by a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field.
‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face.
‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’
‘Now you look a here… ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed.
Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me.
‘Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’ ~ Kathryn Stockett
Most folks I know, in every age group, needed to hear that when they were growing up and maybe still need to hear it today. Ugly lives up on the inside. Ugly is a hurtful, mean person… Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you’re going to have to make this decision. You’re going to have to ask yourself, Am I going believe what these fools say about me today?
The second message I loved in the book that might even change the world if everyone heard it over and over and over and over when they were little:
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
Every child needs to hear that while they still are kind and before anyone makes them feel less than, for any reason. And we all need to hear it still. There will always be those who didn’t get the message, who have ugly that lives up inside that will try to make you feel you’re ugly or not important. So every morning, until you’re in the ground, get up, be kind, be smart and don’t believe them!