I have been helping to install shallow wells with MMM for many years and have received the usual combination of thank you gifts (chickens, eggs, vegetables, Cokes, etc) many times and still appreciate the deep felt gratitude these express. This year, in Zambia, I was surprised and moved in a way I did not think possible.
We had just finished the well dedication and arrived back at the truck.
We were loaded and ready to leave when someone said, “Wait, that old man is bringing you something”. I looked up and an old man, accompanied by his wife, was walking towards us from his house, with a bundle in his hands.
We had to wait a couple more minutes as he was walking slowly. He came up to me with his bundle, wrapped in a white plastic bag.
He held it out to me and said “I have nothing else to give so please take this”. As the bundle was sort of tied up, I asked him what was in it. He said it was clothes and he started listing what was in there – a pair of pants, 2 shirts, and a coat. I was shocked. I had never had someone give me literally the shirt off of his back before.
I accepted it with both hands outstretched, which I was later told is the correct African expression of appreciation of a gift. I know he did not have an excess to give but I could not refuse it and insult him. With tears in my eyes, I thanked him very sincerely and placed it in the truck. I later let the Field Officer take it to his church to give to the “really poor”.