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The Help

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Although it’s a work of fiction, the historical references aren’t. I still find it to be stunning that all this was happening in my lifetime.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!

16 thoughts on “The Help

  1. Debbie, my husband and I are gate guards, just finished a 7 mo stint, on a 3 mo break, be back in May. I found you in Feb, 2012 – going back and reading all your posts.

    • Hello Mickey and welcome to Fork! Oh gahs, that would be a whole lot of reading… I wrote a post every day for the first 5 months. 😉 December of 2010 seems like YEARS ago!
      I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!

  2. Wade – for your sake, I hope Fed Ex comes through for you.
    Freeze dried meals – now there’s a thought… Of course, I’d have to order them on line. I can’t imagine buying second-hand freeze-dried food at the used grocery store. 😉
    ~ Debbie

  3. One of my mgrs, a black lady, asked me if I was going to see this movie. I did, enjoyed it greatly, and I too was appalled at the racism. I told her that what happened then was terrible, shouldn’t have ever happened. She said it still does. She makes more than me and manages me and other white people. Highly unlikely to have ever happened in the Jim Crow South. I can understand this distrust, things were so bad for hundreds of years how could Blacks truly ever trust Whites? Sadly though, she’s only interested in Black themed movies, supports a Black only university, and tends to be overly protective of some of our Black employees who are not the hardest workers(we have some who work very hard). I personally think the trend of interracial marriages is a good thing. Maybe when we are connected through marriage we can concentrate on fighting with relatives instead of worrying about color! One pet peeve about movies about White Southerners, at some point there will be a scene that shows these Whites interacting with Blacks in a positive way. It appears that Hollywood is telling people that it’s ok to like these Whites, they’re the good kind of Southerners. It’s obvious in some kind of movies, like “Fried Green Tomatoes”. But I challenge you to name one movie about White Southerners in a positive light that doesn’t do this. Take “The Notebook” for example. The story is completely about White people but out of the blue the father of one Ryan Gosling’s character, played by Sam Sheppard, is shown with several whites and blacks playing bluegrass on a porch while a black man is dancing a jig. Only lasts a few seconds, has nothing to do with the story, but sets white liberals everywhere at ease. Why, these are good people! I’m for everyone willing to work hard be able to make a good living. I’m not for be classified a certain way because I was born in a certain part of the world. People are quick to assume, quick to condemn. Life is just too short…

    • Wade – you make some very interesting points. I have to confess I watch so few movies I can’t even respond, but I don’t doubt that you’re right.
      Whatever the perceived provocation, I agree, life is too short and too precious to live it with an attitude of condemnation. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
      ~ Debbie

      • And as always thank you for such a great blog! FedEx is supposed to come up with better pay next March so I’ll wait and see. If not I figured out one of my biggest concerns about being single and a gate guard. There are some very good freeze dried meals designed for backpackers by companies such as Mountain House. I can buy in bulk and have enough variety and not have to worry about getting to the store or eating endless cans of tuna and Beefaroni. No rent, no utilities, and little spent on gas make it a very attractive job. And if FedEx doesn’t come through I’ll be working towards getting to south Texas soon. Regards, Wade

  4. I also have the book to read. I grew up very isolated in a small all white town. In 1966 I moved to Ann Arbor. 3 very nice young guys came to work at the University from Atlanta, Georgia. They were black (and they still are – lol). One night we were setting around talking and Jim told us the story of having to soil his pants as he could not use the “white bathroom”. I sat and cried. Things are better now but prejudice is still very much alive in many avenues of life. This is when I pray for patience – that all people can live in a world with love and respect no matter what our differences may be.

    • Oh Jill, what a sad, sad story. And you’re so right – prejudice and hatred still run amok. ‘A world where we all extend love and respect’, now wouldn’t that be something! You’re among those who move it that direction.
      How very fortunate I am that you started reading Fork. You are such a dear heart and such a dear friend. It’s a privilege to know you.
      ~ Debbie

  5. You is kind. You is smart. You is important!
    Yes you are all of those!!
    I saw the movie a week ago today. It was fantastic. I have the book, but have not have time to read it yet. I’m eager to pick it up.
    You started 1st grade and I started college in 1963. I do remeber those times. I was at college when JFK was shot. Classes were called off and we spent the day glued to the TV. BUT having been in Middlebury since 1956, the whole racial issue felt unreal. I think we were lucky to not have had those horrid experiences. We did experience other types of prejudice. But we were taught the value of all people.
    .”You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
    I believe all that and more about you! I love you and respect you.

    • Sis – OK, blushing now. One of the many things Mom and Dad did right with us was to teach us to value everyone. You’re so right. I had no idea how rare that was.
      One of my very few regrets about my childhood was that you weren’t in it long enough. Our folks did most things right, but 11 years between us seems a little excessive. 😉
      You were there long enough for me to crash your slumber parties, but not long enough for me to benefit from your kindness and wisdom. So glad I get to now!
      Thank you, Sis. I love you, too.
      ~ Deb

  6. I love the excerpts that you used. I had forgotten this part, still being so appalled at the racism in the book. You IS so kind up inside that it still shocks me when your reaction to an event is 180 degrees from mine! I’ve never known anyone kinder, Debbie.

    • Cindy – seems like such a simple lesson doesn’t it? Must not be though since we have to keep relearning it. I look forward to hearing how things are going for you by now!
      ~ Debbie

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