Friday, July 30, 2010

Volunteer Charity: Poems from the Point of Contact, part I

My friend and regular reader The Bug worked as a volunteer for a church group and charity in the Midwest in January, 1986. She was, as she puts it, "young and idealistic, and didn't know what was going on", but that's quite wrong. She was new to the experience, but that didn't stop her from observing everything carefully.
She wrote a little more about it in yesterday's post.

She mentioned some poems. I asked to see them, and she sent me six. They are very illustrative of the challenges of modern poverty eradication. But they are far more personal than that. They are also very lovely. I took the liberty of numbering them, just so you can more easily see where a new one begins.
Three today; three tomorrow. I want to thank Dana for sharing them. They are a primer on where any of us would start, inside and out.

The war is very real here.
Will you come with me
to my warm home
and partake of my bounty?
I want to draw you near,
to catch the wind
away from you,
to open my heart
(who cares if you
break the locks?).
But I don’t know
how to give
you don’t know
how to accept.

“You’re here for clothing?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
And I felt like a
savior –oh these poor
people. I was going to
clothe them. I felt so
big – so clean & sacrificing.
After lunch I picked
blouses off a filthy floor
& hung them on filthy
hangers. Castoffs from
faraway people. Dusty,
dirty & tired, I felt small,
very small, a
shopkeeper ashamed of
the selection for my clientele.

Shame is a funny word.
It’s not the aggressive
mothers struggling to
feed their children. 
It’s not feisty
elders proclaiming
to all who want to hear,
“Life is shit!”
It’s not the children with
soulful, confused eyes.
Shame is the man who said, “Yes,
I’m married. I
have three children &
we’d like some food.”
Shame is the young
man bringing his
bride – “here are all
our papers. Please
help us.” And “I have
no income. No income.”

Shame burns deep 
in the eyes of a man
who can’t provide 
for his own.

The Bug blogs at "The Bug's Eye View", and is also featured on my blogroll. She's a talented writer, a member of her choir, a former sojourner to Africa, a photographer, and a great neighbor!

Tomorrow, the next three poems. Thanks to The Bug for sharing her personal experiences.


The Observer said...

Ann T:
O these are great, very powerful. Wow, thanks to The Bug for sharing.

The Observer, running out of WiFi

Yellow said...

Very good. Thank you for sharing. Puts a new light to things.

Unknown said...

I liked them and her perspective. Thanks for posting!

The Bug said...

Thanks for posting these Anne - I'm still half-embarrassed by that starry-eyed girl, but the issues still stand today, that's for sure!

Christopher said...

"Shame burns deep
in the eyes of a man
who can’t provide
for his own."

So poignant, and true.

Bob G. said...

Wonderful poetry!

Ditto on the thank you for the Bug!

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer, Yellow, peedee, Christopher, and Bob,

Thanks for the great comments! I will post three more tomorrow. Together I think they make an arc or spectrum of experience.

I truly agree they are powerful and true.

Thanks for coming by!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Bug,
Speaking as a former starry-eyed myself, I can understand what you mean. Maybe I am also speaking to myself here, but

The starry-eyed was part of what propelled you forward. Then you became more sophisticated because you saw carefully. Neither cynic nor willfully naive.

So I think they're a lamp on the way, which is one of the reasons I love them very much. And wanted to post them.

So have a great weekend,
If you weren't embarrassed before,
perhaps you are now. But I did want to say.

Ann T.