Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Help

Dana and I finally went to see "The Help" and I am so glad we did.  It is about being a braveheart, a compelling story of justice, truth, and courage.  And, the difference that one young person with courage can make.

Let me share two lists.  The first, observations and questions that grew from the film. And, second, how we can help our children pursue right and truth with courage.

Observations and questions:

1. The preacher in the film spoke about Moses and his lack of skill to be a world changer, being "slow of speech and slow of tongue."  But, that meant that it was more about God and His power.  Moses just had to have courage and agree.  Where do I hold back because I am not gifted, even though God is ready to use me?  And, it just takes courage?

2. Some of the whites were mean-spirited and intentional about hurting "the help."  Others knew the help were being hurt, but were passive and watched instead of preventing the injustice.  Who was more wrong?  Which am I? Where do I need courage to step up and protect those who can't?

3. Many of the whites who were "good" people ignored or didn't even notice the hurt in the lives of the help and their families.  This was especially clear in the ironic contrast between whites raising money for poor "African children" overseas but ignoring those in need a few blocks away.  What am I not noticing because it is such a part of our culture?  Where am I looking far away when real people hurt here?

4. While not quoting scripture in the film, those familiar with "the truth will make you free" from John 8:32, would have thought of that passage at the end of the movie when "truth" and "freedom" were discussed.  Where do I not speak the truth, even though I know it?  Truth gives freedom.  Freedom from lies, burdens, and sin. It is worth the price.

5. Speaking truth is in some ways the easiest and yet the hardest thing we can do.  It is easy because you don't have to work to make it up or keep working to cover it up, like a lie. It is hard because it is seldom said without impact on the hearer and the teller. It is hard because the truth teller often pays a price personally--some of the help lost their jobs and the book author needed to leave town.  But, truth tellers are the ones who change the world:  Joseph, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter.  And many more.  Where can I be a truth teller?

6.  Personal experience with injustice inspires courage.  The author of the book in the movie was stirred through what happened to the lady who raised her and then the sad stories of others.  The "help" who told stories were motivated to help when they and friends were hurt.  Do I see and feel hurts around me that drive me to courage?  Am I looking?  If I had my Father's eyes, what would He be sad about in my world that I can help fix?

7.  The author of The Help, the book in the movie, had left the town for four years of college.  She came back with a different perspective that made her notice injustice and be willing to act, not just accept it.  Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the intensity of day-to-day life to gain perspective on what is really happening.  How do we get a different look at our world?  Reading?  Spending time away?  Listening?

I am sure there are other observations and questions.  Those were the fresh ones, as we thought about the film.  And, as I began exploring what we can learn from the movie about building our own bravehearts.

Let's assume you want your child to be a braveheart, even knowing that the life of a braveheart is a life with danger. But, you also know that for your child to become all he or she can be, a life with courage is necessaary.  And, you are willing to let go and know that God loves your child more than you do.  If you want that life for him or her, here are a few suggestions inspired by the "The Help."

1. Support our children in their moments of helping make things right.  When one of my daughters was five, she was playing on a playground with her younger sister while we watched our son's soccer game.  We looked over and she was shoving a boy of about six to the ground.  While there were some feelings of being aghast, when we found out that the boy had been picking on her little sister and someone else, I was pretty proud.  There were others ways to deal with the problem, but I sure supported her desire to protect the weak.  She still protects the weak today. The mom of the braveheart author in the movie supported her daughter and showed pride in her impact.

2. Help our children gain a bigger perspective on life.  The braveheart author in the movie gained a different perspective from going to college out of the community.  It seems that often those most involved in injustice are stuck in a small world that they only see from their eyes and those around them. It seems that those who right wrongs have had their eyes opened with a different view.  Maybe not through living somewhere else, but travel, reading, education, visiting...learning to have a view of the world and people that isn't trapped by culture.

3. Help our children find and develop passions for important things.  Even three year olds can get excited to help Grandma or a sick neighbor.  As children see needs and have ideas, don't squelch them but help them go further.  When a middle school girl named Katie found out about congenital heart problems of children in Tibet, she found a way to save lives by creating a business making necklaces.  When some parents would have said, "You don't have time," her parents supported her, so much that Katie said, "It has changed our lives to change others. We have a passion to change the world."  Fanning sparks makes a difference.

4. Model the values of justice, truth telling, and courage.  I can't shake Micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."  Do our children see us speaking the truth to make things right, in love, or avoiding truth telling for the sake of keeping the peace and avoiding conflict?  This is what the passive bystanders in the film did. Our children need for us to show them how we speak truth and do justice, even in small ways. They learn so much by watching us.

5. Give our children stories of courage.  The Bible is full of people who risked their life, through faith, to help redeem people and make things right.  Look for stories of people who took stands, spoke truth into lives, and refused to go along with the crowd when things weren't right. Read good literature to your children and talk about those heroes with courage.  Tell them about people who are truth tellers,even if they are not famous.  When we lived in Iowa, there was an older gentleman in church who a lot of people found intimidating because he spoke the truth, he wasn't afraid to ask hard questions and talk about the "elephant in the room."  It didn't make for gentle dinner conversations, but his courage changed me.  When one of the help stood her ground to tell the truth, others followed.  Her story changed them.

I am sure there are more.  While there is some rough language and intensity, "The Help" might even be one of those stories you can share with your older children by watching it together.  And use the questions above to talk about the film.

May God bless you as your have courage to raise your own braveheart.


  1. Dear Joe,
    I work for a gentleman now whose parents chose to raise him and his siblings in an area of Chicagoland where the kids would be exposed to diversity, and would grow up in a multi-racial neighborhood. They could have lived in any of the suburbs based on their income, but made a choice to live where many of us would have been afraid to raise our kids. The parents did this purposefully so that their children would grow up with the perspectives of equality and acceptance toward others. I am learning much from this man who is now my boss. I am grateful to God for placing me in a school setting that is so diverse, and where all students are treated with equality and all are given the chance to learn and succeed. We have a long way to go as a culture, but this movie (and the book which I recommend!) did a great job in showing us what it used to be like, and how far we have come. We all can be purposeful in making sure we keep moving in the same direction toward equality for all, everywhere.

  2. Thank you Joe! Your insight and wisdom continue to bless me. Jim and I saw the movie and I just finished the book. Sooooo challenging and now your questions add to it...

  3. Mr. Neff! (Sorry, I know I will never be able to call you Joe) I had no idea you had a blog. I have been struggling with the very issue that is the theme of your blog: building character in my kids and keeping them fearless to do God's work in a very, very scary society.

    I suppose societies have always been very, very scary. Nothing new under the sun, right?

    Looking forward to reading more during nap time!


  4. You can call me pretty much anything! I'll answer.

    I think you are right: it is a scary society. But, I also think you are right that it has always been that way. I can't think of a story from the Bible, Shakespeare, or Dickens that, if we were in the middle of it, wouldn't make us run away.

    Your blog shows your courage. You are making a difference. Thank you.