This I Believe

Sams, Edith E.


  • Edith Sams describes how a childhood encounter with a handicapped individual inspired her to enter social work as a career, and her belief that the efforts of individuals can make an impact on the world.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Mrs. Edith E. Sams was for many years a social worker. She was director of activities at a non-resident settlement and was a community worker in the Kentucky Mountains. Now in her later years her interests center around her church work in Knoxville, Tennessee. Here are the beliefs of Edith Sams.
When I was eight years old, my mother took me with her when she went to visit a crippled
friend. Her friend was so horribly deformed that my first feeling was almost of recoil, my next of pity. Entirely helpless, she sat day after day in the wheelchair friends had given her. But though her bodily condition made a prison from which there was no escape, her mind was alert, and her spirit was that of a singing bird. This I could not understand at the time. As my understanding grew, I came to know there was an indwelling presence which enabled her to live far above and beyond that poor room. She had accepted her lot, and instead of bitterness, she found a strength and a joy that brought to her friends from all walks of life.
The knowledge of this crippled friend partly influenced me to enter the field of social service. Although fifty years have passed since her death, the memory of her invincible courage still helps me to correct wrong attitudes and inspires me to better living. Her life of valor led me to believe the most rewarding adventure of life is that unseen, intangible journey which takes place within my own consciousness. As I strive for a more mature mind and a more understanding heart, I hope to become, in some measure at least, what I desire to be.
Against the background of world events, this effort of one individual may appear a small thing, less
than a ripple on the moving sea of life. But I am convinced of its influence. In the Gospels, Jesus is continually seeking out potential greatness in all kinds of people, as He calls them to collaborate with the infinite power of God. I believe in that power from my own progress, and therefore, I must extend that belief to take in the capacities of others with whom I come in contact. It means sharing the best that I know; feeling sure that this sharing can be a creative thing. To really enter into another's experiences of sorrow, suffering, or perplexity takes love,
imagination, patience. Deeper and more active than sympathy, I find such effort to be tremendously worthwhile. As Miss Jane Addams of Hull House used to say, "In trying to help others, one receives more than one gives."
I have come to believe that nothing of true worth or beauty ever dies. Origins may disappear, but they have simply changed their forms. As they enter into other personalities, they continue to operate and to bless mankind. I believe that all that is of real value has a permanent character
beyond what is called death. Though I do not see with my eyes those near and dear to me, they live within me. I can never lose what I once possessed, anymore than I can lose myself. Someone has said, "A handful of pine seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forest." I, too, will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.
That was Mrs. Edith Sams whose life has been devoted to social service.