Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why You Need To Read THE HELP

The Help – The Strong and Tender Hearted

I just got back from vacation. Believe it or not, fully relaxed after a week in Orlando, doing the parks with the kids. By the way, the key to a successful Disney foray in August? Add in a $50 daily water budget, only hit a few parks and then spend a few days in a resort that has nothing to do with Disney to recover. We closed out our trip at a place with many pools, game rooms, paddle boats, ice cream shoppes, etc. Note, always take the battery operated paddle boat in August. We started off in the old fashioned kind and nearly had group heat stroke out on that lake. I kept visualizing the angry boat guard having to come out and save us as I yelled at the kids to keep pedaling. Fortunately, they had a giant lounger boat that is run by an engine. We traded up and tooled around for a bit while we recovered from our 8 minutes of pedaling and attempted to reduce the explosion of red on all of our faces.

As a treat for myself, I picked up the book, The Help. And I actually was able to read the whole book. In fact, I was swept away by the storyline, the writing, etc. On the surface, this book can seem like a book that reminds us how far we have come in the treatment of minorities, in how we handle our relationships of unequal power distribution. But, as all great books are, it is so much more than that. The Help is about finding your strength, it is about remaining tender hearted, despite what life tosses your way. The main characters are each challenged to face their fears, to be honest about who they are, to challenge themselves to be real, to be brave, but on another level, they all share one other trait. They are kind hearted, not cruel spirited.

When I read this, I had to ask myself, what will they say about me 50 years from now? Being from the North, I can scoff at anyone even having a black maid. But in 1960, in the South, that was the norm. The message of this book is not just about the subservient role of African-American maids, but of treatment of others, of bravery in the face of the unknown, of remembering to keep our hearts open and kind. While at the resort pool the other day, we got into a giant game of pool freeze tag with two other families. Please, as a reminder, do NOT make a flying leap into the 3 foot deep end of the pool while trying to escape being chased by a 7 year old. First, he will still catch you and second, the 4 million pounds of pressure resulting from your body flying through the air into the water will make your ankle hit the bottom of the pool like a pile of bricks. One you stop laughing, of course, you might need some Advil. One of the families was Hispanic and the other was African American. My kids didn’t notice the differences in the families, only that we were alike in loving to play together. I could pretend I am so cool right now and better than those bad society girls from The Help, but I know better than that. I know that bias lives inside of me. I know that I pre-judge and put people into categories. I know sometimes I am not kind. What about today’s hot topics- gays and Arab-Americans and the fact that African Americans and females still make less money for same work than white males?

When I look at the The Help, when I look at my own life, when I look at the world that we all live in, I realize that “strong” is good and “kind” is good. That kind means being genuinely concerned about others, not just the people who look like me, or think like me, but even moreso people who don’t. That strong means doing the hard thing and that can be a challenge. 50 years from now, people will look back at our prejudices, biases and judgments. They will seem so obviously “wrong,” but maybe we shouldn’t wait for the obvious. Maybe books like The Help can teach us that we should always be looking in, at our biases, our justifications for misusing our power, our moments of running from the strength inside of us, our unkindness. And maybe, just maybe, we can look back in 50 years and be proud of who we were today.


  1. wow, first time i have read your blog, and you hit the nail on the head. I did quite a lot of soul searching after reading "The Help". I am a white southern woman,that works as a housekeeper/ nanny, for the wealthy in our town. I was surprised at how much I identified with Abilene. We are all women, we are all capable of love, but we are all capable of hurting others...these days it seems stay at home moms are against working moms, who are jealous of the moms who can afford nannies, as opposed to daycare, and the caregivers in daycare want to be at home caring for their own! It seems we all need to take into our hearts the underlying theme in the book..."you is kind, you is strong, you is important", we are all women, we are all caring for someone, be the best you can be and love each other...

  2. What a beautiful comment! Thank you so very much. There is so much pain in the world and yes we women have our share of it.... we should stand together... accept our differences... and always remind ourselves and each other "you is kind, you is strong, you is important." Thank you so very much for your touching and insightful words.