Langston Hughes' poetry and plays emerged during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, while Hughes himself held jobs that varied from cook to seaman to English teacher, and that took him as far as Paris and Mexico. In his autobiography, The Big Sea, the poet reflects on his coming of age as an African American, and in this particular story recounts a visit to his aunt's congregation and the gift of salvation it offers him. The gift offered, however, is not, in the end, received. The story invites us to consider why we attempt to save others and the effects of our efforts on those we would help.
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The Big Sea, Langston Hughes (Hill and Wang, 1963), pages 18-21.
How does what we believe affect our actions in the world?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?Who should we give to and why?Can selfish motives result in positive action?Where do our values come from? Why do we care about what we care about?