Ever since a close friend of mine pointed out how self-absorbed I was, and how I didn’t give of myself, and also specifically in the context of this situation, ‘giving’ has been the central theme of my life for some time now. Not a day has passed in the last one year, without recalling the following story. These days, it happens at least a few times every day
*****It must have been a year ago. A monsoon day. It had been pouring for hours. Rajeev and I had driven to a nearby coffee world for some hot coffee. At the parking was this security guy who stood with an umbrella helping us park. Yes, nothing remarkable in the story so far.
When I got out of the car, he quickly ran to me and accompanied me under his umbrella to the shelter. As I stood there waiting for Rajeev to join me, I happened to watch him very earnestly run up to each car, and accompany the customers, almost like his own guests. It was not like he was mindlessly following some instruction handed down by his boss sitting inside. It was so clear that he really cared.
Something made me ask him “So, where’s your house?” It was in a squatter settlement some distance away. “Is it flooded?” Yes, it definitely was. “Where’s your family?” He had no idea where his wife and two children might have been. He had to wait until 4 o’clock to be relieved from his duty, so that he could go back and find out from his neighbours their whereabouts. He looked straight into my eyes, spoke matter-of-factly and then went to fetch the next customer.I stood there silenced. Guilty one moment, for leading an unjustifiably luxurious life! Grateful the next, for all that I had! Finally sadness crept in slowly, until it filled me up.
I went and sat inside, still very silent, and not having the heart to spend so much money on a cup of coffee! When I got out, I went up to him and held out a 100-rupee note saying “I hope this helps you in whatever way, say getting to where your family is!” That’s when the most amazing thing happened. He looked into my eyes once again, accepted the note calmly, thanked me humbly, and got back to his work. He didn’t squirm, grab greedily or say ‘No Thanks’. He just accepted it with utmost effortlessness and grace; as much as he could give with. There was love, respect and dignity, and no fuss about it, whatsoever. Anymore words to describe this incident would make it lose it beauty!
From that day on, something in me shifted forever. I don’t think words any more profound or beautiful can ever be uttered about ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’, than those of Vivekananda and Kahlil Gibran.
“Learn that the whole of life is giving, that nature will force you to give. So, give willingly. Sooner or later you will have to give up. You come into life to accumulate. With clenched hands, you want to take. But nature puts a hand on your throat and makes your hands open...The moment you say, "I will not", the blow comes; you are hurt. None is there but will be compelled, in the long run, to give up everything. And the more one struggles against this law, the more miserable one feels.” – Vivekananda
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
…. You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
…. See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers... and you are all receivers... assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.”
- Kahlil Gibran
I am sure that God spoke through the hands of that beautiful soul that monsoon day, and that she smiled upon the earth from behind his eyes!