Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Perseverance, and Strrretching

Five petals. Five posts a week, plus one to recap and look ahead. Today's post continues our lesson from the buttercup, that cheerful yellow weed everyone loves to hate, but from which we can learn a great deal. We can look it this weed's success and make a mental note about perseverance, about tenacity, about never giving up.

But what about when you're wrong? Tenacity doesn't mean being stubborn or insisting you're right when you might not be. The buttercup is one of those weeds, along with mint and ivy and morning glory, that twists and turns and climbs. It grows so fast you can almost watch it; morning glory seems able to take over a garden in a single day. Plants may seem to be still and unmoving, but in fact they have the uncanny ability to move, transport themselves and sometimes even relocate. Physic-ly this is because their cells are responding to photosynthesis by adding cells to the darker side of the stalk, enabling the stalk to bend and stretch toward the life-giving light. If a morning glory is climbing a fence, it bends itself around the fence post in a circuitous direction--essentially going out of its way--to get to its final destination.

Ah, a lesson in disguise. These plants are persistent. They're not giving up but they're not stoically stubborn, either. They stretch, navigate, explore alternate routes. And so must we.

So, not to belabor the point, I'll get to the book review. The book is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I read this book last week and fell in love with it--with the characters (who are very personable and real), with the theme (about class structure and equality and rights and friendship), and even with the setting (1962 rural Mississippi). The characters are almost all women, who, with the tunnel vision of 1962, perform their roles as employer or servant. The women all know each other, work with each other, socialize with each other, and pray on Sundays. But their lives are vastly different. The white women live lives of apparent ease until you realize they are tortured by things not so apparent on the outside. The black women live lives of apparent hardship until you realize that while their lives are difficult, they are perhaps richer emotionally and spiritually, especially compared to some of the white women who have closed their hearts and minds to what would otherwise make them more complete, holistic beings.

The Help makes The Buttercup List because of its heartfelt writing style, because much of it is based on true stories experienced by the author, and because it has the capacity to teach us exactly what the buttercup and the morning glory can teach us. Namely, to persevere and at the same time, to stretch. Two of the characters in The Help aren't content with their social structure--they recognize that it is wrong-- and they work to change it. These women stretch (in fact, they put themselves in great danger to do so), but because of them the flowers of Jackson, Missippippi blossom all the brighter.

I highly recommend The Help and also encourage you to look for a part of your life that needs changing. Where could you stretch a little to make a change happen? Where can you bend or change something (your attitude? your locale? your relationship?) in such a way that you explore all the options? Like photosynthesis encourages a flower to bend its stalk toward the sun, so can you. Look around for the warming sunshine in your life and bend your entire existence toward it.


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