The signal turned red just as I pulled my car in front of it. Now I had no other option but to wait forever till it turned green again. I killed the engine and settled down for a long wait just as a horde of ragamuffins attacked me and the other cars. Barely dressed little kids selling large bouquets trying to make a ‘quick’ buck at the traffic signal! A small brown hand knocked on my window. A little boy of around ten smiled toothily at me. He pointed at the flowers and then at me. His hollow cheeks made me wonder about the last time he had a square meal. This wasn’t the first time I was seeing him. In fact I had been seeing him for the past couple of months- at the same traffic junction, with the same flowers and toothy smile. And always the same line, “Madam, flowers! For you, only thirty rupees!” Usually I would just ignore him and he would give up on me and go to the next car but that day I couldn’t stop myself from rolling down the window pane. All he asked for was a few coins. As I kept the meagre amount on his outstretched palm, a mix of shame and compassion surged through me. Suddenly, I couldn’t look into his eyes. I wanted to do something for the child. Something. Anything. In my head I knew that I could do a lot! But God knows what stopped me; pulled me back as if there was a string attached. The kid however, was overjoyed. The smile never left his face. The lights turned green; my conscience and I moved on.
When I was a kid I had an abridged version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, ‘Little Women’. For some reason I never really got around reading the entire book. But there was one chapter in particular that I would read again and again. It went somewhat like this: The March sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth are all geared up for Christmas. But on Christmas morning their mother asks them to sacrifice their Christmas breakfast and give it to a homeless family that needs it more than they do. The girls are hesitant at first. The general atmosphere is that of wartime and misery and cheerful occasions are hard to find, the Christmas breakfast being one of them. However, their mother convinces them that there is no greater joy than the joy of giving. Indeed, when they see the poor famished family eat their breakfast, it gives them a happiness that is unparalleled.
As Wayne Dyer rightly puts it, “The measure of your life will not be in what you accumulate, but in what you give away.” A life lived for others is richer than a life lived for yourself. Knowing that you can put a smile on someone’s face is perhaps the happiest feeling in the world. For someone who is weighed down with hopelessness and defeat, even a small gesture can make a hell of a difference.
There have been great personalities in the past who have proved that the humanity in humans is still intact. Mother Teresa, a young nun from Albania, came to India to teach but was so deeply stirred by the wretched poverty that she made it her life’s mission to help the poor, the sick and the dying. She was indeed an angel sent by God to care for the uncared and to love the unloved. And if you thought that the era of good Samaritans was long gone you probably haven’t heard about Kailash Satyarthi, a 60 year old social activist who happens to share this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai. An electrical engineer by profession, Mr. Satyarthi founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 1980 and has been actively fighting against child servitude and harassment often risking his own life in the process. By means of his extremely low-profile battle against child labour, Kailash Satyarthi has saved about 80,000 innocent children from the clutches of bonded labour. These noble souls have given an entire lifetime to humanity. Can we not give a little too?
A random act of kindness can make someone’s day. A word of encouragement, a pat on the back, a caring smile can light up someone’s life like Diwali night. No one ever became poor by giving. You might make a living with what you get but you make a life with what you give. Incidentally, the ‘Joy Of Giving’ week was celebrated from 2nd of October to 8th of October this year but in case you missed it, don’t worry, it’s never too late! Walk up to someone who’s in need. Share life’s small pleasures with those who aren’t as lucky as you are. See the happiness in their eyes and you’ll receive the best gift of your life for it is only in giving that one receives.