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). 

7 thoughts on “Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

  1. Yes, definitely. Dignity and respect. We’re all flawed people who bear God’s image in some way. I realise I find it harder to see Jesus in some people, and I’m sometimes guilty of viewing (say) certain politicians or public figures as less than fully human, God help me. And other people I can all too easily just see as problems that I don’t want to deal with, or demands I don’t want to meet, rather than the actual full people they are. Much easier just to give a quick handout than to stop and engage properly…

    • Yes, we need to be saying, “God, with your grace, may I go.” It is grace that gives us the ability to love (or is it the other way round?). Grace that gives us just that little bit more – the ‘extra mile’ that will mean so much to someone. It starts with a smile, I reckon. A face that doesn’t look away, maybe?

      • Yes, I’m not sure whether grace or love comes first – they’re probably two sides of the same coin. And yes, not looking away sounds like a good place to start!

        With everything, I suppose it has to be a choice not compulsion – choosing freely to listen and engage rather than doing it out of guilt or fear or desire for reward. But I suppose that receiving grace ourselves helps us to be in a position to make that choice more often.

    • I’m amazed it is not more widely known. I was prompted to read it by a reviewer of ‘The Help’, who pointed out that while ‘The Help’ is a good book, it was written by a white woman who grew up in a privileged white household (which you could also say for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, I suppose?). The reviewer suggested reading ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi’ to get a better picture of what life was really like. It is a very readable book. I couldn’t put it down!

      • I haven’t read The Help, but I have read To Kill a Mockingbird; one key difference is that in The Help (from my understanding), the white author tries to write from a black POV at times, while Mockingbird is always told from white Scout’s POV of the events. You’ve read both, right? Did that make a difference for you?

        • Yes, that is a very important distinction and perhaps that is what makes ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ such a classic – and the fact it’s written from a child’s perspective, which was so innovative. I’ve read both, yes.
          The author of ‘The Help’ writes from three different POVs – a white woman and two black women. The white woman is interesting because she’s questioning the environment in which she’s brought up and she does what she can to change it – but ultimately she gets opportunities and life chances that the other two characters do not and she doesn’t seem to realise that she has such different opportunities (and neither does the author). I loved the two black characters, but it seemed a bit odd for the writer to have just imagined their lives and their responses, rather than doing any actual research. I didn’t find that out until after I’d read it – and when I was reading I loved it. It is a very well-crafted story, but it lacks the weight of ‘Coming of Age in Mississippi’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

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