Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Lesson From "The Help"

Last week I had a rare opportunity to spend some quality "girl time" with two very special people, Steve's mom and sister, in Kansas City.  Bidding farewell to the grit and grime of being a mom on the farm for two days was like having an out of body experience.  The entire trip I kept thinking thoughts such as, "Somebody pinch me, I just went to the bathroom alone!" And, " Holy smokes, is that what it feels like to sit and eat at the same time??? Dreamy!!!"

One evening, after a leisurely day of shopping, we decided to order room service and watch a movie (more pinching!!). Relaxed in comfy jammies, with hors d'oeuvres and wine close at hand, we watched the movie The Help.

Rarely do I ever become completely absorbed in a movie. Books tend to have a stronger hold on my attention and affections, but the experience of watching The Help was so very different.

Up front, the movie impresses upon the viewer images of mankind's ongoing disconnect between the objective eternal dignity and purpose of every human soul and the subjective interpretation of his or her external appearances by others. We all wrestle with this disconnect to varying degrees and probably will until the end of time.

In Last Sunday's Gospel reading, Christ proclaims the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  How can something that seems so very simple be so very complicated for us?

In  The Help, the demand of this commandment upon the characters is particularly visible, and yet there were several scenes where the fruit of following this great commandment, of love being chosen, is so apparent, so endearing.

In one particular scene, a little white girl sits upon the lap of her soft-spoken nanny, Aibileen, and they are not distracted by differences, but present to one another, recognizing all that is good, true and beautiful in the mystery of God's presence within each other.

For days following, I kept replaying this scene over and over again in my mind.  At first I experienced the scene in the context of history, trying to untangle the tightly woven cords of reason, or better yet, lack of reason, why since the beginning of time man has taken favor with hate over love, jealousy over charity, selfishness over generosity....sin over salvation.

I kept asking myself, why can't I get this movie out of my head??  Then, it dawned on me, there is something for me to take in, to take home....

And, I hear myself being the "good mom" who is able to juggle macaroni and cheese, football practice, Latin phrases and flower beds, a rhythm of work set to the daily soundtrack of "be nice, say you're sorry, make your bed, finish your work, eat your supper, brush your teeth....."

So often we float through life being told what to DO. We are doers.  Doing is living, living is doing. And from doing we learn about who we are, what we like, how to act and how not to act, what to think, how to feel and when to do this and that.

We want our kids to be good.  Honestly, we want our kids to be great.  But, what if they are learning about being good or great through what they are good or great at doing - sports, music, academics etc. etc.???  What if they go through life seeing everything that they are doing, and not knowing or caring about who they are as being????

Aibileen didn't tell the little girl, "you keep your room so neat and tidy" or "you can dance so wonderfully."  Rather, she was a mirror to the girl of the goodness she saw in her, in who she is as a child of God.

You are kind.  You are good.  You are important.

I would like to begin my week of day-to-days, and end it hearing those words from a reassuring voice.

You are kind.  You are good.  You are important.

How different my day, my days might be if I sipped from the life-giving Spring that flows from my Father's heart.....the one that showers upon me the graces that help me recognize that I am made in the image and likeness of the One who is unfailingly kind, smart, important.

Then, I could breathe those words over the foreheads of my children.  Mixed in with "brush your teeth, study your spelling words and take out the trash", could those words, spoken honestly, spoken earnestly, bless my children with the freedom to be who they are meant to be? To love others as they love themselves?  To recognize their own personal inherent dignity and the dignity of others?

You are kind.  You are smart.  You are important.

Thank you, Aibileen. Thank you.

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