Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jonathon Kozol - Amazing Grace QUOTES

        The small church pictured above is St.Ann’s Church, a small episcopal church in the South Bronx where poor families go for a meal or just for plain comfort. This is also the start of Jonathon Kozol’s journey of exploring the inner city and getting to know some of the people that reside there, in which he shares this journey in is his book, "Amazing Grace." The people he meets are the poorest of the poor, living in some of the most horrific conditions. Though these people and children are surrounded by so much disease, poverty and violence, they are some of the most generous, forgiving and resilient people. I would have to say that Cliffie, the seven year old boy who acts as a tour guide to Kozol is one of the most generous little boys I have come across. The city in which he lives in is not doing anything to help the situation he and all other residents have to deal with; rather they are only making it worse as a woman Kozol meets at the church explains, “3,000 homeless families have been relocated by the city in this neighborhood during the past few years, and she asks a question I will hear from many other people here during the months ahead. ‘Why do you want to put so many people with small children in a place with so much sickness? This is the last place in New York that they should put poor children. Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn themselves before their time.’ ” I found this quote to be interesting because despite little Cliffie's life, he is so giving and so cheerful. Even though the city is not helping him out at all, he is always willing to give and help others. The first example of this occurs through a simple yet telling gesture as Kozol and Cliffie are walking the streets of South Bronx, “[Cliffie] then looks up at me and asks politely, ‘Would you like a chocolate chip cookie?” (Kozol, p6) he later asks again by saying, “you sure you don’t want a cookie?” (Kozol, p9). As I first started reading through this cookie conversation, I really did not think much of it and wondered why Kozol even included it in the book. As I went on and read more of Cliffie’s generosity I knew exactly why he had included it. The next quote was the one that really made me understand why Kozol had included the cookie conversation and just exactly what it meant.  While they are walking, Cliffie tells Kozol the time he went to get pizza, “ ‘three slices, one for my mom, one for my dad, and one for me’ – he says he saw a homeless man who told him he was hungry. ‘But he was too cold to move his mouth! He couldn’t talk!’
‘How did you know that he was hungry if he couldn’t talk?’
‘He pointed to my pizza.’
‘What did you do?’
‘I gave him some!’
‘Were your parents mad at you?’
He looks surprised by this. ‘Why would they be mad?’ he asks. “God told us, ‘Share!’ “ (Kozol p8). Just as the cookie conversation, this story shows just how generous and giving Cliffie is. My first quote reveals how people just expect the children of the South Bronx to succumb to their living situation and become part of the negative they are so often afraid of. However, my second and my third quote show Cliffie doing the exact opposite. Despite all the hardships this boy faces, he still recognizes that there are those who are less fortunate than him, and he undoubtedly without question or hesitation is willing to give something up that is considered a rare treat for him. In our society most people don’t even give up the spare change floating around in their pockets to homeless people on the street, so it was incredible to see such a young boy who has it harder than most people out there be so generous and giving.
       One thing that stood out to me most that I would like to point out in class is the comment made by Lawrence Mead. Mead believes that, "if poor people behaved rationally, they would seldom be poor for long in the first place" (Kozol p21). I absolutely disagree with this statement. As Kozol pointed out, people like Alice did not choose how their life played out. She worked multiple jobs, but divorce and cancer ultimately got the best of her. She acted rationally and did whatever she could for her family, but it wasn't enough. Of course I believe there are some poor people out there who are not working as hard as they could be to get to a point where they could live somewhat comfortably, but as Kozol points out, for many it is not a choice it is just the way life happens.


  1. I have to agree with you on how this little boy gave this homeless man his pizza and realized that there are people out there who have less then him. I also think part of the reason why we (our society) today does not give anything to homeless people because we are scared that they could possibly harm us.

    1. I agree with you sometimes I am scared to stop and give a homeless money ,because you never know what they are capable of.

  2. I definitely agree with you and Karissa. It is so sad to think about the tough situations innocent children have no choice but to deal with. People don't chose to live in poverty, most of the time it is because they have no other option.

  3. I agree with you as well, Cliffie's generosity and faith was so touching, especially as a child who comes from such a deprived community. Also, that in many circumstances poverty is unavoidable. Sometimes numerous life-struggles cause people to lose their recourses, while others are also born into poverty.

  4. I completelly agree with you. Cliffie is such a young child who is full of faith and tries his hardest to keep that faith during tough times. With being in the community that he is in unfortunately he is subjected the the dangerous occurence that happen. Poverty is not something that people picked to have for themselves and their families included.

  5. Loved your use of Mead's quote! It worked as a nice tie-in to the point you were getting across. I also agree with your analysis of Cliffie, and how poverty is something that is just given to a very unlucky bunch of people.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.