Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Pride Has Many Faces

‘The devil’s wiles are many. He would turn hell upside down a thousand times to make us think ourselves better than we are. He has good reason for it, for such fancies are most injurious. Sham virtues springing from this root are always accompanied by a vainglory never found in those of divine origin, which are free from pride.’

The Interior Castle

St. Teresa of Avila

Pride. It’s such a ubiquitous sin that we barely even notice it :-/ I wonder why? I’m sure pride makes God sad. Have you ever heard a sermon preached on pride? I certainly haven’t. Yet pride is a tenacious, deep-rooted sin that grows like a weed, so why is it largely ignored? Why are certain sins singled out over other sins? I don’t get it. I guess I don’t have to – God isn’t asking me to be anyone else, or to worry about why anyone else is the way they are (except, of course, my children). No, God’s just asking me to be me and you to be you. And that’s all (which is not to say we are to ignore other people – absolutely not! But we have to allow them room to be themselves, and we have to love, and to serve, without judging).

For me, the first lesson in humility has been a realisation that I am, frankly, rather useless. It is also the realisation that the whole of humanity is screwed up in one way or another. But the second lesson is amazing. The second lesson turns everything on its head (God does this, I’ve noticed). Far from living in a continual state of misery over my worthlessness, lesson number two is a life-changing realisation of my innate, God-given dignity. My recognition and comprehension of my unworthiness is what makes the knowledge of dignity so joyous, and so beautiful. When I acknowledge my God-given dignity I have no more need of pride. This is the working of grace. I don’t think I’m there yet, by any means, but… I’m on my way and the view’s good.

‘There was once a man who went out to sow. In his sowing some of the seeds fell by the road-side and the birds swooped down and gobbled them up. Some fell on stony patches where they had very little soil. They sprang up quickly in the shallow soil, but when the sun came up they were scorched by the heat and withered away because they had no roots. Some seeds fell among thorn-bushes and the thorns grew up and choked the life out of them. But some fell on good soil and produced a crop—some a hundred times what had been sown, some sixty and some thirty times. The man who has ears should use them!’

Matthew 13:3-8 (JB Phillips)