From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

My Momma Will Give Me More

As we make it, we’ve got to reach back and pull up those left behind.

Joshua I. Smith

I was out making home visits that Friday—out visiting families. Managing the load, doing the paperwork and making the visits was a large part of my responsibilities as a caseworker for the welfare department in Michigan. My clients came in all shapes and sizes. I had a strange feeling that afternoon, almost like I had lost the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle I was trying to put together. Every driveway was filled with large mounds of snow; the snow truck tracks were still fresh on all of the streets.

As I approached my client’s house, I couldn’t help but notice the chipping paint made a small pile in the right corner of the porch. The walkway had not been shoveled in days, and each step I took seemed more difficult than the one before. There was a strong odor of gasoline in the air, and as I looked next door, I noticed a man fiddling with an old car that looked as if it had not been moved from that one spot in weeks.

The wind started to blow again, so I placed my gloved hands on my cheeks to lessen the sting. I stepped onto the porch, reached through a tear in the screen and knocked on the door because there was no doorbell. I stood there in the shivering cold for what felt like an eternity until finally someone answered. The woman and I had spoken several times by phone, and I had advised her that I would be out soon to make a home visit. This was the first time that we had talked face-to-face.

My caseload was heavy and I didn’t remember faces very well, but she had the kind of eyes you’d think I would remember forever. They were haunting, almost dim—noticeably absent of the usual vitality that you normally see in young women. Her skin looked weathered and aged—almost grainy. I could tell that she had been crying. Her thin T-shirt was tattered and damp from tears. I heard children’s laughter in the background, and I heard a little boy say, “It’s your turn.” Children never have to worry about where their next meal will come from or whether or not the house will stay warm for another night. Only a mother lives with that worry.

Before I could take a seat to begin my interview, she said to me, “I spent my last five dollars earlier in the week for food for the children. And now, I don’t have any food left in my house.”

She was out of food stamps and had no other means of buying food until her ADC check arrived at the end of the following week. I looked at my watch; the office was going to close in a half-hour. I didn’t have time to run back for an emergency food voucher, so I did the only thing I could do—I took her and the kids to my house. I had not made up my mind about what I would do next, but I knew that it was up to me to make sure that those children had food to make it through the weekend. I needed to give them enough to sustain them until I could get back to the office on Monday.

My mind wandered a little on the short drive to my house—back to Rapides Parish, to my hometown, Alexandria in central Louisiana. My momma taught me to share at an early age, even though I was an only child. I’ve carried that teaching with me all these years, even on this cold winter’s day in 1972.

During the ride, the children pointed at every drop of snow they saw, naming each one and wishing for more. Their mother had put them in their only coats—which they had already outgrown—for the trip to my house. When we reached my home, I invited my client and the kids inside and offered them a seat in the living room. As I went into the kitchen I heard the mother say in a hushed tone to the children, “Now you both sit still and don’t touch anything.”

I smiled and happily opened my refrigerator door. I always kept a lot of food, enough to feed an army, even though there was just little old me. I pulled out all the food I had. It filled two or three shopping bags. I took the bags into my living room and placed them at her feet. She was extremely grateful, and she didn’t know how to accept the food because no one had ever done this for her.

I assured her that I had more than enough and said, “My momma will give me more.”

As my great-uncle Steve would always say, “Baby, if you keep your fist always balled up tightly where nothing can get out of it, ain’t nothing go get in it either.”

For the first time, I saw the wrinkles soften and brightness return to her eyes. They were warmed with a sense of hope. She gave me a hug and started to cry. My momma always taught me to give freely, and to believe that God would always provide a means for us to get more. And He always did. I shared that with her as we started on our way back to her home. I have always given freely, and God has continued to bless me.

She was wiping her tears when her children asked her why she was crying. Her reply, “Because God has always provided a way for us. Just when I thought I couldn’t go any farther, He sends a sign for me to keep on going.”

Then, they turned to each other with a puzzled look on their faces and started talking about everything they were going to eat when they got home. They didn’t understand what she meant, but I sure did.

As time went on, I forgot about that cold, blustery winter Friday and the years went by. One day nearly fifteen years later, a coworker stopped me in the hallway at work and said, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

I tried my best to remember her face, but we had so many new people in my department I couldn’t keep track of all the new employees that hired into the agency. Besides, I had been promoted to management several years back and spent just about all of my working hours coaching my own staff. Well, I don’t need to tell you who she was. Deep down in your soul you know who she was. Yes, she reminded me of that Friday afternoon many years before. She was the client I had taken home with me when I was a caseworker. She shared with me how much I had inspired her back then, and she was determined that she would find me one day and surprise me. I was surprised, indeed! While I thought I had just been delivering food that day, it turned out those grocery bags also contained hope and encouragement, and now, she too is in the position to touch others through serving.

Gloria J. Quinney

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