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The Butler

I just saw the movie “The Butler,” an excellent movie, with a star-studded cast and Oscar-worthy performances. I appreciated how they told the civil rights story through the real life of one man from his impoverished youth, through the service industry ranks, to becoming butler for eight presidents in the White House.

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Creative Intermission: There’s a powerful scene when the butler’s son becomes an early Freedom Rider and is assaulted as he participates in a sit-in at an all-white section of a lunch counter in the 60’s segregated south. This scene is cut with the staff at a formal White House dinner preparing and serving the meal. This powerful juxtaposing of these two different events visually speaks volumes.

The movie made apparent how far we have come in this battle for equal rights. I know there is still work to be done and there may always be racism and injustice in the world, but “The Butler” gave me hope that we are moving in the right direction.

I work in a large office building; there are around 100 people who work in this space. There is one woman, Deborah, whose job it is to keep the workplace clean. I thought of her in the scenes when the butler was learning his trade and learned to be invisible. Deborah has that same invisible ability. She stealthily slips in to empty our trashcans and dust and vacuum, while we work. She doesn’t distract us from our jobs and heads rarely look up from computers when she slips in.

The Black Stallion
It was a rare conversation with Deborah and my office-mates, when we learned that she loves to fish and ride horses. This led to a conversation about movies about horses. We asked her if she had ever seen “The Black Stallion.” This movie came out decades ago and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s is a stunningly beautiful film.

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Creative Intermission:  A young boy and the wild horse are stranded on a deserted island. The scene that has stayed with me since this movie premiered in 1979 is shot from underwater as boy and horse learn to trust each other. You see the horse’s four legs and the boy’s two legs as they play in the surf. As time goes by, you no longer see the legs of the boy, you know he is now atop his companion, the black stallion. They have come to trust each other.

Deborah was excited to learn of this movie and was ready to run out and buy it. We told her it was an old movie and that she’d have to find it online. What became slowly apparent to me is that she doesn’t have a computer and buying something online is a foreign concept. Shortly after the conversation with Deborah, I read my friend, Lisa Froman of Tao Flashes blog post on doing random acts of kindness.  So I went online and ordered this movie and gave it to Deborah.

This simple act opened a door that allowed us to see each other. I was able to thank her for her hard work and she now saw me too. I’m now someone she has a small connection with, not just some woman with her head buried in that box on a desk. We are no longer invisible to each other anymore. We smile and ask about each other’s day and our weekend plans.

Small random acts of kindness…as Mother Teresa said, “do little things with great love.” I believe it’s what moves us forward.

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