By admin


Categories: celebrant musings

Systemic Change vs. Charity

I wish I could ask my mom something.  Regrettably Mom died two years ago.

When I was in third grade I noticed a little girl in second grade who sat in a chair at the end of the hall while everybody else when to eat.  Most kids brought 35 cents each day so they could eat in the cafeteria.  They turned right at the hall’s end.  I turned left and walked three blocks home for lunch.  It was something that made me different and I longed to be like everyone else and eat in the cafeteria.  Lillie Bell just sat in a metal brown chair with her feet swinging and her big brown eyes watching everybody.  I asked my mom if it would be OK if I fixed a lunch for Lillie Bell Templeton.

Mom agreed and the next day I brought a sandwich in a brown paper bag and gave it to Lillie Bell before I walked home for my own lunch.

My teacher, Mrs. O. L. Davis , who had braids wound severely around her head, told me that afternoon that I was silly to bring a lunch for Lillie Bell.  Her family had enough to provide their child with lunch money!  Her mom took in ironing and cleaned people’s houses and she could send some change for Lillie Bell to eat.  They lived too far away to walk home like I did, but that family could provide for their own children.

I remember hating my teacher and thinking she was wrong!  It was the first of several times I remember being morally outraged with “Old Lady” Davis.  All this at age 8 when teachers are pretty much up there with Mom and Dad and God.

For several days I continued to bring a lunch.

Then here’s the part I’d like to ask mom.

Somehow Lillie Bell was no longer in her chair.  I was told she was eating in the cafeteria.  What happened?  Had my mom made polite inquiries?  Did Lillie Bell’s mom start sending a lunch?  Was someone shamed into letting her eat for free?

I bet mom knew.  I hope that my act of charity had something to do with systemic change within that school structure.  I just remember that I was happy that Lillie Bell no longer sat on a cold hard brown chair at the end of the hall while everyone else turned to go eat lunch.

Oh, did I tell you Lillie Bell was black?