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“Words have power,” so says Toni Morrison, author, teacher, and Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winner of Literature, now in her late eighties and featured in Greenville-Sanders’s new documentary. As a toddler her imagination was seeded with stories of slavery and the preternatural, drawn from memories of her parents and maternal grandparents. Once she learned to read, she found her own way into multiple worlds. In time, she would chronicle the Black experience in America, especially the plight of the hurt child.

Despite her ailing body, tastefully dressed and accessorized with one-of-kind jewelry, she remains the storyteller. Humor, lightsome eyes, and strong hands bespeak an innate wisdom—of having passed through life’s crucible, intact.

And what was in that crucible but impoverished beginnings, racism, degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities, single-parenting two sons while underpaid as a Random House editor, and the critics’ narrow view of her writing. In 1983, tired of promoting the work of other Black writers not that well received, she quit her job and became a full time writer. She was fifty-two years old. And for decades, words rushed from her psyche, her unique voice imprinting its legacy upon generations of readers.

What intrigues me about this documentary, though, is its title: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019). Indeed, there are many pieces in the life of Toni Morrison. What unifies them is her obedience to the I Am within her psyche, from which well words that attest to her wholeness, the ultimate purpose of life.

She remains an absolute teacher …

 

 

 

 

The outer door opens a crack, an NB scuffed shoe wedges it open further, a right shoulder leans into it even further. A right hand reaches around for the wheeled cart behind him and thrusts it inside the doctor’s waiting room. It is the hospital courier making his morning rounds.

 

Patients fret behind magazines or I Phones. A toddler strews plastic blocks on the floor, then retrieves them. The drama deepens. No matter that the courier’s withered left arm flops around like flotsam on roiling waves; nor that his gait lists wildly to the left. He is on a mission to deliver the mail and pickup more generated by the clerical staff. A distant smile lightens his Ichabod Crane face and illumines his significant impairments. This is a simple man of deep joy.

 

He carries the message well to those who understand it. Then he disappears into the inner office. He will return at the end of the day

 

Four years, in all weathers, this lanky courier has pulled his wheeled cart to doctors’ offices and made his deliveries. Before then, he had worked in the hospital’s mailroom, according to the receptionist.

 

Such are the truly great ones among us! We do well to pay attention.

 

His name is Jim.

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Available on Amazon

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