Three themes present in "Thank You, Ma'am" are Forgiveness and Empathy, the Power of Love and Trust, and Christian Charity.
When Roger first snatches the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, she wrestles him and drags him to her furnished room at the rear of a house. Once insides Mrs. Jones asks the boy his name and tells him to wash his face in the sink?
"You gonna take me to jail?"....
"Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere," said the woman. "Here I am trying to get home to cook me a bite to eat and you snatch my pocketbook! Maybe, you ain’t been to your supper either, late as it be. Have you?"
Perceiving that Roger is neglected and hungry, Mrs. Jones forgives him and with her motherly nature --"You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong"--she forgives Roger and cooks him a meal. She also tells Roger that she, too, has done wrong, and offers him empathy, "Everybody's got something in common."
- The Power of Love and Trust
While she prepares the meal, Mrs. Jones leaves her purse on the other side of the screen where she cooks. Roger worries that she may not trust him, so he moves where he hopes she can see him. "And he did not want to be mistrusted now." And, as Mrs. Jones talks with Roger, she does not ask him anything about himself which could be embarrassing.
Despite Roger's attempted robbery, Mrs. Jones understands his poverty and want. So, she gives him ten dollars for the purchase of some blue suede shoes with the admonition to not steal again. Leading him down the hall, she says, "Good night! Behave yourself, boy!" Stunned by her charity and kindness, Roger cannot even utter a thank you, so stunned is he by her charity.