The annual expressions of gratitude from the U.S.’ Thanksgiving holiday now subsided, I share a poem I wrote yesterday about how hard it is at times to be genuinely grateful.

Over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to live rent-free, staying with friends and family. But that has also meant that I have been someone’s houseguest.

After I wrote this reflection, I wondered: Is there a parallel to be drawn with those at the receiving end of aid?


To ask, and have to ask.
To be at the mercy of
generosity, or obligation, or excess.
Let us not pretend
it is easy.
To receive with grace – thank and
thank –
and don’t acknowledge
the assault on dignity, on self-respect,
however small or hidden,
as you acknowledge the effort
and time and resources given for you.
You must keep them flowing.
Dependency demands a
constraint to your choices.
Of this, be reminded
with each offered, open palm.

My first turkey (or was it just a big chicken?), Lilongwe, 2004

Have some poems you’ve written or treasured that you'd like to share with fellow aid workers and do-gooders? Please send them my way at!


This poem originally appeared as part of an ongoing series, "Friday's Poetry Pause" at:


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Coming Out of the Closet

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Tags: Listening, Project, Thanksgiving, The, aid, assistance, development, foreign, international, poetry, More…recipients, work, workers


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