Yesterday I finally got around to watching The Help. I put off watching the movie back when it was released because I intended on reading the book first. I even picked up a nice copy at my library’s book sale this past summer, but both times I tried to read it I had difficulty getting into the story and ended up putting the book down. So when I noticed that I could watch for free this weekend, I did.
There were times that I found myself in tears. Not because I was shocked, but because, having the benefit of the cumulative history and learning of mankind easily accessible, I can see just how wrong it was that African-Americans were treated so poorly. The Help took place in and around 1963, which I say based completely on events that were referenced in the movie, and it really is difficult to think about how less than fifty years ago a great many people thought that it was alright to treat other people so terribly based on the color of their skin. Terrible isn’t a strong enough word for what they endured, but I think that most people know enough about history to understand what I mean.
Then, while I was still watching The Help, I thought about some of the groups of people who aren’t treated with the God-given dignity that they deserve in my own time. Of course, the babies that have been lost through abortion came to mind first, but I also thought of other groups that I frequently see very negative things written about, such as illegal immigrants and the poor.
We as a people have come so far, but we still face the same problem as those who came before us: we don’t always see that every single person, no exceptions, possesses inherent, God-given dignity. As such, we’re all privy to the same basic rights. I’m not going to pretend that sometimes it’s not difficult to see it each person’s dignity. Everyone knows of an instance in which someone wasn’t acting according to their dignity, which makes it all the more difficult to see. The drunk with no job? It’s easy, from the outside looking in, to say that he/she could get a job and help themselves if they would only stop drinking. But we all have weaknesses, we all know, deep down, that stopping a negative behavior and replacing it with a positive one is much easier said than done. Just because someone made a poor decision at some point doesn’t make them less of a person, even if they make repetitive poor decisions with no repentance and no intent to change. Just because someone doesn’t look the same, or practice the same religion, or breaks a law, or adds no perceivable benefit makes them no less of a person, no less valuable. This realization has made it so much easier for me to want to treat everyone as they deserve to be treated.
The Help reminded me of where we’ve been and where we are now. I’ve heard a lot of negative about how what dire straits our country is in, especially with the upcoming election. I’ve also heard speculation about how if a particular candidate is elected (and it goes both ways), our country will be so much worse off. Could things get worse in certain ways? Sure, that’s possible. But I refuse to believe that the president is capable of causing everything that we have gained to be reversed. We’ve come too far, and (should) understand all too well the importance of each and every person to let that happen.
You see, The Help was a valuable reminder for me. It reminded me that our attitudes and understanding of people and events grow and change over time. Thinking about how far we’ve come in terms of civil rights gives me hope. Hope that the areas which we recognize need work now will eventually see the positive changes that we are working toward. Yes, the progress can seem painfully slow, and even backwards at times. I remain ever-hopeful, however, that we, as a people, will arrive at the point in which every person is treated as they deserve to be.