Supplicate: (Oxford Dictionary): 1. To petition humbly to (a person) or for (a thing).

An old man – maybe not old, maybe just worn
On the pavement of Sonagachi.
He is lame, a wooden cart nearby.
Transport, mobility.
He extends his outstretched palm, beseeching, to the stranger.
His needs are many, he is trying to live.
He is a supplicant.
Being skilled in the ways of the world I avert my eyes and walk on by.
What will it really change?
He lunges for my ankle, desperate. How can I not see his need?

A small girl in rags, an infant on her hip, toddlers at her knees
Stands outside our bus door in Jaipur.
Palm outstretched, beseeching. They are trying to survive.
She is a supplicant.

Schooled in the ways of India we avert our eyes and walk on by.
What will it really change?
Her face – incredulous! How can we not see her need?

Back at home, I learn a core program will lose funding. The one that serves the last girl!
I extend my palm to anyone,
Surely you won’t let this program die? Surely you see the need?
I am a supplicant.
Steeped in the ways of philanthropy, they mutter
“evidence-based practice”, “measurable outcomes”, “cost per unit of service”.
What will it really change?
Incredulous, I lunge for their ankles.

This is what budget cuts looks like.
This is what inequality looks like.
What does real change look like?

Suzanne Koepplinger
Suzanne Koepplinger
Catalyst Initiative Director
The Minneapolis Foundation

Suzanne Koepplinger, M.A., is the Catalyst Initiative Director at The Minneapolis Foundation. Before joining this foundation, Suzanne served as Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. Learn More

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