I recently finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, her best-selling novel about three women whose lives are intertwined on both sides of the racial divide during the 1960s. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie or read the book.
The author, who grew up in Jackson, MS tells us in an afterword that she wrote the story while living in New York. She said it was probably “easier than writing it in Mississippi, staring in the face of it all.” She said “the distance added perspective.”
Ms. Stockett’s departure from her home to better see the story was probably a good move. That idea made me reflect on the concepts of connection, of family, of belonging. I believe connection—to places and persons—is a universal need, almost as essential as the air we breathe. Without some kind of relationship, we lack the ability to understand and measure the worth of our efforts, our goals, or even ourselves. This is the talk of a country boy and that is what I am.
I’ve probably made 50 or more trips from my home in Oregon to go back to western Oklahoma to visit my family. Each time, my pulse quickens when I spread the strands of a barbed wire pasture fence and wiggle through to meander across the rolling prairie. Memories, compelling and almost sacred, stir at the call of a meadow lark. The smell of sagebrush tells me I belong there. I am at peace. I feel an immediate connection. Wordless, my brothers and I are bonded anew by our common appreciation for place—the place of wind and temperature extremes beneath the cloudless bowl of heaven.
As a writer, I gain perspective by having gone away and then returning.
There are many things that might stimulate human connection and sense of belonging. Certainly, family and friends are the most common sources for relationship. For you, it might be culture. One website I ran across appeals to Arizona retirees of Dutch ancestry.
Besides economic strata, worldview, a shared faith, similar positions on hot-button topics (think NRA or social issues), your elementary school or college, hobbies, and meshing personalities, which of the following might define the deepest connections of your protagonist—or even of yourself?
--fighting for the same cause
--a shared history
--a common enemy
--a common savior
--mutual recognition of each other’s value to the other’s wellbeing
--relationship between rescuer and the rescued
--survivors of a collective oppression
--sharing the same roots
--membership in an exclusive organization or social group
--mutual trust and/or admiration
--shared life objectives
--acceptance by a group
--steadfast support from writing group, neighbors, church or family
--you’ve sacrificed for one another
--or perhaps even been partners in a risky or illegal activity...
We are all different, yet so alike. Let us remove our masks and pause to look fully into one another’s souls.
Samuel Hall is an editor for Gold Man Review. To read more about Samuel Hall go to Samuel Hall's Page.