If you've seen the movie, The Help, you'll recognise the phrase, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important" as the greeting that black maid Aibileen gives each day to her young white charge.
As a young mother, Aibileen's own son was put in someone else's care while she went out to work, and then, in the prime of his life, he is killed in a workplace accident. But instead of drowning in resentment, she lavishes her love and blessings upon the daughter of her indifferent and sometimes cruel employers.
Watching the scene in which Aibileen enters young Mae's bedroom in the morning and approaches her cot with a huge beam and a lively morning greeting, her arms fully extended, just radiating delight and pleasure at the sight of her young charge, is deeply moving.
Aibileen then lifts the little girl out of her cot and sits with her in an armchair, saying the magic words: "You is kind, you is smart, you is important". Considering how she is treated by her employers, Aibileen's decision to reinforce the traits of kindness, intelligence and worth in the young being who could easily become her future employer are simply inspiring.
But this is not just a fun game; she then encourages Mae to repeat the words back, thus af-firm-ing, "I am kind, I am smart, I am important", and she reminds Mae of these statements when the child has been publicly humiliated by her mother and even when she has herself been sacked, taking the time to squat before Mae and repeat the mantra.
Plump little Mae's experience of being routinely rejected by her elegant mother and Aibileen's very conscious efforts to build her sense of self and to deliberately counter the effect of the mother's disinterest is a clear demonstration of how life always provides a balance of support and challenge. It really doesn't matter who the love comes from, so long as it comes.
The morning after watching 'The Help', I went straight to my two daughters as they prepared for school, and stopped them in their bleary-eyed tracks to say, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important". Having seen the movie, they smiled at the reference and hugged me back, and I realised how much we had become caught up in the rush of life and hadn't been giving each other much 'presence' of late. I'm keeping it up (although with a slight grammatical correction to be more authentically 'me'), and they are soaking it up.
If there is one thing every single person needs, it's the feeling that they are loved and worthy, and since every single person has the traits of kindness and intelligence and vast potential, to reinforce these qualities even if they are not being demonstrated can be just the thing that is needed to unleash them.