When I was a child, our family went to the Congregational church. We were outcasts there as much as anywhere; even the Sunday school teacher ignored us. Once I came late to the class, the chairs were all taken. The teacher said, “Just sit on the floor, Lucy.” Thanksgivings we went to the activities room in the church and we were given a Thanksgiving dinner. People were nicer to us on that day. Marilyn, whom my mother mentioned in the hospital, was there with her own mother sometimes, and she would serve us the string beans and the gravy and put the rolls on the table with their small plastic-covered butter pads. I think people even sat at a table with us, I don’t remember that we were scorned at those Thanksgiving meals. For many years William and I went to shelters in New York on Thanksgiving and served food we had brought. It never felt to me that I was giving back. It felt like the turkey or the ham we brought with us seemed suddenly very small in the shelters — even if they were not vast — that we went to. In New York, they were not Congregationalists we fed. They were often people of color and they were sometimes people with mental illness, and William said one year, “I can’t do this anymore,” and I said that was okay, and I stopped doing it too.
But people who are cold! This I cannot stand! I read an article in the newspaper about an elderly couple in the Bronx who could not pay their heating bills, and they sat in their kitchen with the oven on. Every year I have given money so that people won’t be cold. William gives money too. But to record that I give money for people to be warm is something that makes me feel uncomfortable. My mother would say, Stop your foolish bragging, Lucy Damn-dog Barton—