The price of charity

Here it is…. please read this poem in conjunction with yesterday’s post ‘Angry writing’ and the accompanying comment.


What is the price?
The price of your charity
Must I recount?
Tell for the umpteenth time
My story
Is the price of your charity
That vicarious thrill?
That frisson?
While your pupils dilate
As I relate my tale


What must I pay?
For your castaway goods
Stowaways from the depths of your drawers
Thrown into plastic bags for me to sort
Must I show you my scars?
My photos? My relics?
Let you touch my belly
With child inside
Have you tell me
How lucky I am


What is the cost?
Of gaining your sympathy
My identity lost
As I wear your clothes
My sense of self, my pride
Thrown away, with all those items I couldn’t use
Aching guilt
Trembling rage
That you exact such a price
The price of your charity


3 responses to “The price of charity

  1. The remarkable generosity shown to people affected by the Black Saturday fires truly indicated the depth of human feeling engendered by the disaster. Many people gave selflessly of their time, space, goods, services and money. Without this assistance I would have faced even more difficulty in rebuilding my life, as would many other affected people. I can only express my most heartfelt gratitude to all of you – both known to me and anonymous.

    This poem refers to occasions where I felt as though something was expected from me in return for aid – generally a disclosure of my story. At such times it was easy to feel as if I was some sort of commodity and the person talking to me a voyeur. It seemed as if there was some kudos to be gained by having met a bona fide ‘victim’. Although thankfully fairly rare these instances left me feeling trampled upon and clearly they have remained in my memory for over two years. The poem also touches on the loss of autonomy and identity associated with accepting charity for the first time in my life. It is a profound experience to overnight go from one who provides aid, to being the recipient of charity and it requires re-framing one’s whole existence. It is hardly surprising then that, being so vulnerable, I have recoiled with such horror at the idea that I may have been exploited in the process of being assisted.

    I am saddened that I have not yet written a more grateful poem. It is certainly on my list of subjects to write on and I guess I touched upon it in ‘Comfort cup’. I decided to publish the poem because I feel we should acknowledge our own ugly feelings. We must also recognise that our actions have the potential to harm others, even when we are well intended. Such open dialogue can assist with healing and also inform our actions in future situations and it is in that spirit that I offer this poem.

  2. Always wondered about that side of the current trend for charity to a known recipient. I must say I’ve always favoured the anonymous gift although that too has its problems. It is then pretty easy to say “I’ve already given” and not worry much about any ongoing need.

    If only life was simple!

    • Indeed… I think as givers and helpers it can be too easy to get caught up in what the process means for us and to lose sight of the recipient. At times charity can seem more about the donor than those being helped. I hope that my experiences after Black Saturday have taught me to be a better giver and helper and that, by talking about it, others can also reach a better understanding.

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