I was visiting my grandmother one day when there came a quiet knock, and then the back door opened. This was in the late 1950s. My grandmother’s house was large and roomy. My great-grandmother and my mother’s younger sister lived there also. My grandmother’s house was a boarding house from time to time. On the back of the house were two large bedrooms, an adjoining bathroom and an extra kitchen. It also had a long screened in hallway which provided a separate entrance for the boarders. But this black lady, wearing a white apron, came right into my grandmother’s main kitchen.
Sally was her name, and she was there to do the washing and the ironing. The kitchen contained a small washing machine with a clothes ringer attached. The dryer was a clothes line out back. A few years ago, I asked my aunt about Sally. She said she did not remember much about her, only that she came to the back door one day and asked if she could work for my grandmother. She worked one day a week and never said a word. She worked a few months and then she was gone.
This has all come to mind again as I listened to the audio version of Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help. This important and very humorous novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi. It tells the story of a rich, young white girl who wants to be a writer but finds herself writing the household hints column for the local paper. The problem is she knows nothing of kitchens, cleaning, stain removal or cooking. So she enlists the aid of black maids in the days of segregation and the storms of civil rights to share their secrets. Soon she conspires with her new friends to help them tell their stories of what working in the homes of white people is really like. This is a novel that will be taught in classrooms. It addresses racism, class distinctions and the aspirations of all people to help change the world. Sally never said a word, but I wonder now what she was thinking about the life she wanted to live.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be sensitive to those around you. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.