Lectionary Year A
August 15, 1999
Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28
Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.
Edith was among the poorest of the many poor African American women in Harlem. A single parent, she was trying to raise four children while holding down one part-time and one full-time job, earning just enough for the bare necessities of life.
She was poor, but she was not a quitter. Edith kept as close a watch on her three sons and a daughter as time would allow. She was constantly worried about their safety or about their getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. As a safeguard against the many dangers, she kept them glued to their homework and was constantly telling them they could get out of the cycle of poverty with a good education.
Her biggest challenge was her oldest son Jaimie. Physically handicapped from birth, he made up intellectually for his physical limitations. When he was a few months into his senior year in high school, his mother decided - in her stubborn way - she was going to get him a scholarship for college. It was the only way any of her children would get a higher education, and she felt there would be an extra benefit - by example - if her oldest offspring was able to go to college.
When Edith put on her best clothes and was about to take the subway to downtown New York, her friends sitting on the apartment steps kidded her about where she might be going. "I'm going downtown to get a scholarship for Jaimie," she replied without a whisper of doubt.
Her friends laughed as one said, "Sure, Edith, you just go on and tell some rich fella to get you a scholarship. Oh my, are you innocent!"
"I looked up a foundation that gives out scholarships and I know where their office is," Edith replied as though that was all that was necessary.
"You know you can't squeeze money out of those big-time moneyed people," one of the women countered. "Anyway, I hear that foundation stuff wasn't meant for poor black folks like us ... you got to be the right color and from the right part of town..."
"Don't you worry none about me," Edith began, but was interrupted.
"I ain't worried 'bout you, honey," one friend joked. "I'm more worried 'bout those poor folks on the foundation that you're going to harass." Even Edith was forced to smile at that remark as she went down the steps to catch the subway.
"Ma'am, I appreciate your situation, and I'm sure your son is worthy," a staff member of the foundation said in slight condescension, "but we have a very long backlog of applicants waiting for schlarships ..."
Edith interrupted, "I can't wait. My son is handicapped, and he's going to finish high school near the top of his class, and he needs to go to college next fall. I don't have any money to pay his way. He wants to go to Harvard or some other school like that."
Edith got nowhere on her first visit, nor on any of the next six or seven visits. But she wasn't about to give up. She brought snapshots of her kids, she brought school report cards, she brought her work record and her small earnings record. Then on a spring day as she returned from still another trip downtown, she proudly announced to her friends sitting on the apartment steps, "Well, now we just have to see which one of the colleges Jaimie wants to attend."
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