Light Notes

Much to learn from 'The Help'

Everyone sat closely together in the dimly lit theater.

As one we laughed aloud, held our breath or wiped a tear. The packed house sat mesmerized as we revisited the 1960’s in the film The Help.

I never lived in the South, but I did live east of Los Angeles. Close enough to see the smoke from the Watts riots in the heat of August 1965, but not near enough to understand the anger.

That may be the difference between life in the suburbs of California and one in the heart of a city such as L.A. or Mississippi.

The Help swept me into Jackson where the division between races was as clear as black and white, but anger could be a shared emotion. Black families shopped in separate stores, lived in separate neighborhoods and praised God in separate churches.

Nevertheless, they did come together in the households of some white families where maids cooked, cleaned and raised the homeowner’s children. The “help” and employers mixed together during the work hours only — the everyday life in that era.

Author Kathryn Stockett conveys through her book and the film, the question of what it was like to be black and work for a white family. The answer is revealed through the stories and voices of the maids at the beginning of the civil rights movement.

What became apparent to me as I watched the film is the disparity between white Christian folks’ talk and their walk. A film resource, The Help study guide, later took this moviegoer into God’s word to address hypocrisy, anger, courage and faith -- all themes within the film.

The Help is about changing times — both on the political front and in our hearts, as the study points out.

As I sat in the audience during the movie, I saw two women — one black, one white — sitting side by side, sharing laughter and maybe a tear or two. It reminded me of a poignant line in The Help: “We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”

Who would have thought there would be that kind of insight from a Friday night with The Help.