Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reading: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and oh I absolutely love, love, loved it. The Help is set in the early 1960's and describes the complex relationships between white families and the black women they employ, early in the civil rights movement.

First of all, I love how this book is written from several character's perspectives. It's similar to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I find it really enriches these characters to see them from the point of view of several other characters. These women seem positively alive to me.  

I certainly felt ashamed as I read this book. It's shameful to know that vicious racism was mainstream in America's not-so-distant past, and is still (dumbfoundingly) present today.  But, in addition to feeling ashamed I also felt uplifted, inspired, and awed. I had my heart broken, pieced back together, and to be a little cliche - I laughed, I cried - it was awesome.

I think there are a few important things I will take away from this book:

This first quote is said by a maid who is remembering a white employer's thank you, almost thirty years later
"Saying thank you, when you really mean it, when you remember what someone done for you... it's so good."
This is so true - there is nothing so valuable as a heartfelt thank you. A thank you that recognizes and honors the recipient. I'm going to start saying a lot more thank yous.

This quote needs no introduction or explanation - it stands powerfully alone
                              "All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries."
I can be kinder. I can be so much kinder. I can be kinder to my children. I can be kinder to people I think are different or separate from me.  Kindness can be powerful and transformative, and yet it is so simple and available every day.

Finally - this last quote is said by a maid, Abilene, and references her employer's daughter, a little white girl that she loves dearly:

"...and that's when I get to wondering, what would happen if I told her she something good, ever day?"

[Every day Abilene tells her,] "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

What would happen if I told my boys that they are something good, every day? I can do this. What a gift.  To tell them they are good - not just their behavior, but they themselves are good - for no reason other than that's the way they were born. You are kind. You are smart. You are important. Thanks, Abilene.

Go read this book. Yes, you. Get up and run off to the library, book store, amazon - wherever. Don't walk. Run. Go on, now. Giddy-up.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! Those are some powerful quotes/ideas! Imagine how amazing the world would be if we all just tried a little bit harder to do these things!