Usually an eight year old's plea to parents and grandparents doesn't involve a serious documentary film, but this one is different. This film, this project, worked its way into Harry's heart when he first saw it and he can't let it go. I admire him for it, and I thank him for the tenacity with which he hung on to get the family assembled to see it together.
We were busy. Folks were coming, folks were going, showers were starting, Sunday night was ending and the whole gang was tired from a wonderful weekend. Harry got it in his mind, though, that we were long overdue at showing the movie to his grandparents. He wasn't letting it go. I watched as we all ran through the laundry list of reasons that late Sunday night wasn't the time to start something new. I heard my own voice reminding me that I was tired, that my children were exhausted, that we had put the grandparents through enough for one weekend. No one was excited about the movie. No one had it in them. Harry wouldn't stop. I saw the determination in his eyes. I heard the urgency in his voice. He took a shower with no nudging to ready himself for the cinema experience. I began to realize that this was a time that the young shall lead us. I began to know that we had to listen.
A few years ago, my dear friend Dan, introduced me to the movie. I'm glad he did. We showed to a group of young folks and they were mesmerized. One of them just brought it up to me recently and told me that she had never forgotten it. Eight year old Harry has been the same. He was curious about it, but we dragged our feet on letting him watch it. I was afraid its subject matter was too hard. I feared he wasn't ready to hear about the atrocities of the holocaust. I didn't want him to hear how bad it had been - didn't want him to know that humans could be so horrible.
We have our own copy now. Sadly, I found it for a dollar at the bottom of a beat up bargain bin at an ailing video store. Harry noticed it right away and continued to be curious about it. He begged to see it, to know what it was about.
It finally dawned on me that I couldn't keep my young son from evil any more than I could erase it from history. My children will know about it, they will read about it in all its forms and they will be eye witnesses to things I cannot imagine. I can't keep evil from creeping into their lives. They can turn on the tv or log onto instagram and see things I hoped they'd never witness. It's out there. Maybe showing them what happens when people don't think for themselves is an important enough lesson to teach.
Perhaps, I thought, Harry should see it so we could all talk about it together. I can't erase evil but I can tell my children what I think of it, I can tell them about how their ancestors felt and I can brainstorm with them ways to make things better. My kids saw the movie; and I'm not exaggerating to say that they were transformed. I watched their faces and I saw as they moved to another place in life. I witnessed them graduating to a place of awareness. Hopefully, they won't ever forget what they learned about what one person, or a small group of determined individuals can do. Hopefully, they will remember.
If you haven't been fortunate enough to see the movie, Paper Clips, I hope you will make it happen. I hope you will learn about Whitwell, TN and the unlikely individuals that marked their little corner of the world forever. I don't think you'll ever forget it. The story of what happened in this little forgotten town will make you think. Aside from being a beautiful example of incredible film-making, it will change you forever. Grab a friend or a child, rent the movie and be astounded at courage and thinking outside the box and transformation. I dare you.
Thanks, Harry, for making us slow down. Thank you for demanding that we remember together how important it always is to practice thinking for ourselves and how lucky we are to live in a place where we can do just that.