When I was a little girl in Clermont, Florida, May came to our home about three times a week to help Mama cook and clean. No, we were not rich; we were white. Because of the segregation laws in the forties, May could not come in the city without a designated job or purpose. She could work at our house and legally go to the grocery and pharmacy. Well, it was a little more complicated. My mama had to gather her groceries from May’s list. Mamma would pay for them, and then May would help by caring for me and our home. May’s husband was allowed to come and get her at our house and get gas while he was in town for a “purpose.” Of course, as a small child, I was not aware of any of these political policies. I just loved May because she was May.
She was making biscuits one day. I watched intently as her hands patted and rolled the dough.
“I am not eatin’ any of those nasty biscuits, “I declared.
“Now, why not, baby?”
“Cause your old black hands are making them dirty.”
With this, May broke into peals of laughter. “Oh, child, you will eat the most of all.”
“Nope, I sure won’t eat those nasty biscuits.”
May sat beside me. I felt her warm, round arm hug me. I looked at her apron full of her stomach and tucked my head. “Darlin’ let me see the bottom of your hands.” I opened my hands widely and showed her.
“Now, look at mine. What do you see?”
“I see flour.” I said.
She brushed her hands and sat her palms beside mine. “See child, mine is like yours. Mine is a little pinker because I am older. But, our palms and hearts are just the same.”
“How do you know what color my heart is?” I asked.
“Child, we all have pink hearts. In our maker’s eyes, we are all the same. We are His children.”
I always trusted May. She never got impatient with me and told me Bible stories every day. I asked her to read to me, and she would just answer, “Can’t.” Then, I thought she couldn’t because she didn’t have time. Now, I realize that she probably couldn’t read.
May shaped my thinking about God, about people, and about love. She helped mama by cooking and cleaning, but most of all she helped me. I loved just following her around and hearing her stories. She knew just how to tell a child a God principle without preaching. She just gave me grace. She made me feel loved just by being. I am so thankful that God sent May to shape me like Him. He used her adversity and turned it into a blessing for all of us. We loved helping May with groceries, clothes, and things at the pharmacy. She was a part of our family even though society saw her as less and uneducated.
May’s love and teachings have helped me realize that our culture pressures and yardsticks are often very wrong. May represented love. Cultural biases dictated hate. May loved from her pink heart. Society had no heart for African Americans. May had a permanent impact on my spirit. Society thwarts my spirit and even tries to control it. Sixty some years later, I still hear the teachings of May.