Editor’s note: Highlands North resident Lyn Pollard and her neighborhood book club read “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett and saw the movie together when it opened this past weekend. The story sparked much discussion among the women about their experiences with race growing up and how it affects their lives today. Pollard, a Bowie Elementary mom of two and small business owner, wrote about it on her Chalkydoodles Blog where she addresses all kinds of issues that face working moms. Below is her piece, which originally ran on her blog on Aug. 12.
Earlier this month, a small group of women met in my home for dessert, wine and to discuss “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. It was a great little book club, full of in-depth discussion about topics that you don’t normally find a group of urban mothers chatting about over a glass of pinot noir (and, of course, a slice of Minny’s chocolate pie). If you’ve read “The Help”, you can probably imagine to some extent where the conversation went and how it got there.
It was your typical neighborhood women’s group - a mixture of moms from our local elementary school. Some I know very well, and others I’ve enjoyed getting to know better recently. While I’ve chatted with these women many-a-time in the school yard during pick-up, during play dates, etc. - what made this gathering so unique, were the new conversations. While many of our day-to-day interactions center around our kids, families, jobs, schedules, etc. this was the first time I had sat down with any one of these women and discussed our upbringings, our perceptions of race in today’s society, the way our parents and grandparents viewed racial diversity and what they taught us about it. It was a fascinating discourse that lasted well past 1:00 a.m.
While there are varied opinions about “The Help”, and increasing in vocality this week with “The Help” movie opening in theaters this past Wednesday, one opinion, I hope is universal. For the women who have read the book and are willing to open their minds and their ears, the conversations occurring across the country in book clubs, discussion groups and outside movie theaters are all doing one thing: ”The Help” is drawing women closer together by opening up real discussions about real substance – who we are, where we came from and how these shape who we are raising our children to become.
I recently had the privilege of hearing “The Help” author Kathryn Stockett speak as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live series. After an evening full of laughter (Ms. Stockett is absolutely hysterical) and listening to the author’s experience writing the book, and to other women’s comments and questions about it, my biggest takeaway: We all want to live in a society where we can thrive and grow simply by being who we are; and where we can have a voice to tell others about it.
Whether our experiences in life have been mostly good or mostly bad, there is something very liberating about sitting with a group of women who are willing to listen, share and honestly look at themselves and think about how they can improve their roles as mothers, sisters and friends. In my opinion, “The Help” is, at the very least, causing women to examine their attitudes and behaviors in their own, current worlds – and getting a new topic of conversation started.
We’re all raising our kids in a world full of bullying, name-calling, cliques, exclusion and peer pressure. The best way to cross-check what we’re teaching our children is to take a good hard look at how we are treating the people around us. If we can’t demonstrate daily to our kids an attitude of kindness, acceptance and equality, how can we expect them to live that out in their own lives?
For me, the challenge is clear. Look at yourself, listen to others and really think about how your current attitudes and perceptions shape the way you live your life and raise your kids. If you can’t proudly cite your own behavior as an example for your children, then consider what you can do to change it. Your kids, and our society, will thank you for it.
To see a list of discussion questions on “The Help” used by our book club, go here.