The Real Help

Last night, I came home late from work and my family was watching The Help on television. The movie is based on a novel by fellow Alabama graduate Kathryn Stockett. She did a good job telling an important story. You learn a lot about people by the way they treat each other.

My family had a housekeeper, called a maid at the time, when I was growing up. In fact, we had several over the years. Our first, Annie Belle, had been with my dad’s family since he was a kid. She was with us until she grew too old to work anymore. Over the years, we had several others—some black and some white.

Annie Belle had actually moved with my dad’s family to Florida when he was a kid. He graduated high school there and she came to Birmingham with them too and eventually worked for us, as I mentioned. It pains me to imagine that some people were treated poorly but I know that people in every part of the country, and in every part of the world, are rude to “the help.”

I was really young when Annie Belle left to go live with family in Detroit, so I don’t have a lot of great stories about her. I know that we were “her kids” though. I do remember her talking about politics once and she mentioned that she had voted for George Wallace. I didn’t know much about him at the time, and I wasn’t really alive during the civil rights movement, but I remember my mom asking her why she liked him. She explained that she didn’t “like” him and she knew he didn’t like her but she voted for him because, at least, she knew where he stood. 

I’m glad I was too young to understand. Politics makes strange bedfellows.

After the movie, I started thinking of a conversation I had with my daughter, Sara, a few years ago. I ran into her teacher somewhere and she told me that Sara was so helpful. She said she always stayed after school and helped straighten her room and get things set up for the next day. I told my daughter that I’d talked to her teacher and she said how much she appreciated her help.

Perspective is everything. Sara said, “that woman thinks I’m her maid.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I’m not even sure how she knew what a maid was. I had to laugh, again, about the perspective. My kids have giving hearts and I am grateful for that fact. After a bit, she realized that I was telling her that her teacher was grateful for her help and she smiled.

There is a spiritual lesson in everything. Always regard others as better than yourself. Think of how much trouble we could have avoided in our nation’s past if we’d lived by simple spiritual truths all along. In the end, the best help you can ever have in life is the spiritual truth and a bit of faith.

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