Roy Exum: The Great Memphis Poverty

Friday, July 12, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Here’s one where you suspect you know where we are going and the neat part is, we never get there. It happened in Memphis, a particularly crummy city where ‘violent crime,’ per capita is almost as bad as Chattanooga. Blacks shoot blacks, again based on per capita of 100,000 residents, but they are better at it in Chattanooga, and while Memphis has never gotten as high as fourth on the ‘worst-run cities in the United States,” the city’s leadership has been irreversible due to a parade of self-centered bad guys guised as politicians.

It has been found that no other city of comparative size in the USA has quite the poverty rate of Memphis. One of every two children in Memphis public schools live in poverty. It is readily acknowledged a rash of ‘progressive Democrats’ has resulted in darn-nearly creating the death knell of what I’ll always remember as a classic Southern City. Today too many bad guys have wrecked the city but that’s no more; today the Memphis police go as far as they dare, by telling motorists to lock their car’s door from the inside, this because drivers are accosted on an errand on just a brief stop at Walgreens.

It was in the roughest part of the city not long ago that Chauncy Jones Black, who is black and just turned 16 after a life of living in squalor, told his invalid mother he’d catch the late bus after he tried to get some food. Chauncy, with not so much as a dime in his pocket, had discovered if he’d use his bus pass, he could travel to “the rich people’s Kroger” and offer to do any kind of odd jobs for food.

Matt White, who is white and off to a heady start in the music business, happened to be coming out of the grocery store when he saw the boy approach him. Matt was wondering if this was a “beggar” or a stick-up by a desperate kid. What he saw was a broken kid, the victim of poverty and despair. Chauncy didn’t ask for money but wondered if he could do any menial job to work for food.

He told Matt he didn’t have long before the late bus would run but told Matt he would carry his groceries to the car for some donuts. “Matt was thinking … sure, dude … we’ll get you some donuts,” wrote Eric Sumner in a beautiful story. As they walked through the store, Matt found out Chauncey had one set of clothes, that he made straight A’s in school, and that they defied all odds getting by on his mom’s meager disability check.

Matt then told Chauncey to put his donuts in a shopping cart and the two “newest friends,” started through the store, beginning with aisle A-1. Fresh bananas, cereal, peanut butter, fruit, milk, cans of vegetables. As the cart got fuller, so did the incredulous Chauncey’s heart. Matt’s was already there but … wait, how is this 16-year-old kid going to get all of this on the bus. “Easy … I’ll drive you home.”

As Matt drove into the projects, he sensed that despite the 30 years he has spent on this earth, he had no way to prepare himself. There wasn’t a crumb or a scrap of food anywhere. What spartan living showed when Chauncy was prodded by Matt?

 A couple of outdated chairs, a lamp on a side table. Somehow Chauncy and his mom had cut an old sleeping bag in half and those halves were their mattresses. On the floor was where they slept. Again, Chauncy had no other clothes so he would hand-wash every night. They had no telephone, no TV, and his mother’s illness – she would shake all the time – and medicine is expensive.

When Matt got into his car, he cried out to his Jesus – yep, Matt because of his Christianity was now grappling with new problems. At his age he hardly had the where with all but he felt if he could share this amazing kid’s life, that might give Chauncy the recourse to make money. Matt was thinking a lawn mower and Chauncy’s personality alone would lead to further opportunities.

Matt even got a plan to go to the White House and to be a guest with Ellen DeGeneres. “I don’t deserve this… not at all, but the fact somebody cares about me is everything.

As the story’s author shares, “Technically, it might not have been his responsibility to feed someone else’s kid. But there was something about Black that made him want to help – he seemed like such a good kid. No, White thought. Not today. Today, he was going to do something good for a teen in need."

What you must appreciate is that this whole thing happened because of one. One who cared for a 10th grader from the moment he saw him. To God be the glory …

royexum@aol.com


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