Get Your Hands Dirty

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hailed a possibly "one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill A Mockingbird, " by
The Help by Kathern Stocket.

This book is such a hot-button topic right now, 
and since my friend Holly just wrote a great post and got me thinking, 
I thought I would jump on the bandwagon too.

A lesson from The Help.

Like most good novels there is a hero and a villain. Most would say that Skeeter, the white gal from a wealthy Southern family, is our hero (although I would argue that the true hero is Aibileen). Her childhood best friend, Hilly, plays the villain. 

We all love Skeeter because she's the game changer, the visionary, the crusader, the activist. She jumps the tracks and crosses the racial divide. She immerses herself in the lives of people who are different than her. Burdened by injustice she doesn't just sit around waiting for things to change she "is the change [we] want to see in the world" - she does something about it. Yes, we all want to be Skeeter.

No one wants to be Hilly. Self-absorbed, prejudiced, narrow-minded, racist. Hilly's treatment of black men and women makes us cringe. We can not believe someone would be so calloused. Yet, Hilly is not all terrible. She's supportive or her husband, attentive to her children, and she works to aid the poor. Remember the wonderfully ironic scene where Hilly puts on an elaborate benefit to raise money for the poor starving children in Africa. She does care about the black children; she just doesn't want them sharing her bathroom. 

I want to be the hero in the story; I want to be Skeeter. However, if I'm truly honest more often than not I act like Hilly. Christ, my education and a decent socio-economic standing have taught me to recognize and reject blatant racism, so in that way I do differ from her. But, when it comes to being a hands-on, get-dirty, game-changer we tend to be more similar than I like. I don't want to go across the tracks; I just want to send my money over there.

It's comfortable here in my middle-class white neighborhood. The world is a distressing place. I am empathetic and burdened by poverty, disease, and injustices but I would rather not see them up close. Instead I'll keep a comfortable distance, and yet appease my cushy-life guilt, by sending a monetary donation. 

Let me give you an little example. God has been reminding me that poverty, pain and injustice are not just foreign problems. So recently I began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center for homeless, pregnant women in our area. The director of the center started me off with a simple task - once a month I make dinner for all the girls in the house - with the intention that hopefully I will make a connection with one of them more personally. Now, in order to connect with the gals I need to actually spend some time with them. The director suggested I cook the meal in their kitchen and then sit down to dinner with everyone. Great idea, right? Except, I haven't actually done that yet. 

Instead I've just dropped the already-cooked meal off, said "hello", and then bolted. My excuse has been that since the ladies eat early I don't have anyone to watch Landon. Lets be real, I haven't actually tried to look for a babysitter. Why? Because I'm afraid. I'm scared to "cross-over" so-to-say and immerse myself into their world. They are in a desperate situation, most of them recovering substance abusers with backgrounds completely different than mine. It's so much easer to drop off my donation and leave. Stay in my bubble and avoid the yucky stuff: the drama, the pain, the hurt. Yet I know that my donation isn't really going to change anything. It's nice to eat a hot meal but lasagna typically doesn't alter the course of someones life. Relationships change people. Actually: Jesus in relationships changes people. (Believe me, I'm not saying that I'm awesome and I'm going to "save" anyone) 

God's really been working on me in this area for the past two years. I don't want to stay in my bubble forever. I'm afraid that if I do I really will become a Hilly with a narrow, concrete world-vision. Instead I want to get in the game, so that I can help to change it. Our family's decision to adopt is one step in this direction. We want to be Jesus not just preach Jesus. But, as you can see from the above example, I still have a looooong way to go. 

Obviously I don't think there is anything wrong with monetary donations. Great causes need both works and wealth. And there are seasons in life when we need to rest, recovery or repair before we serve others. But I wonder what you think: generally are we too eager to open our wallets and send our money rather than sending ourselves?


Holly said...

Great post Anna. You volunteering in ANY capacity is more than most can say. Daily, I remind myself that if I want my kids and friends and community to know Jesus, I really need to walk the walk. I grew up with a mom that walked the walk a little too much possibly. Homeless, abandoned, outcasts frequented our home. Whenever I'm actually in a place where I would love to do the same, I too find an excuse... like what if my kids are in danger or B will be mad. But the reality is, we are more in danger of being Hilly (dangerously close to Holly:) and that's the real injustice. So let's both pledge to do more than just send the dollars...

joyfulgirl said...

I haven't seen The Help nor have I read the book, but I can completely relate Anna. I believe I have been volunteering at the same house and have done the EXACT same thing. Taking the more comfortable route while giving myself excuses as to why I can only drop my meal off. I have given rides to some of the ladies, but feel that spending a couple of hours there with them would really encourage opportunity for relationships to grow. I appreciate your willingness to share the difficulties that you face while having the heart of a servant.

Two Cent Sparrow.
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