Krishnaraj Nambiar, Pallium India’s volunteer writes:
Born into a poor family, Aji Kumar was thrown out of home by his own mother at 16 in their mistaken belief that his birth on an inauspicious day would lead to his father’s death. He survived, grew up doing odd jobs, and got married. At age 23 came the tragedy that turned his world upside down. He fell from a tree and became a paraplegic confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. His wife and child left him not long after.
Since he considered it disgraceful to live on alms, he made umbrellas, foot wear and back packs, soap and detergents. Shortly thereafter, he met and married Remya against the wishes of her family. She stood solidly by him through thick and thin. But whatever he earned went towards repaying the interest alone on the loan taken from a lending institution that left him disillusioned and killed his will to survive.
A few volunteers from Pallium India (under whose care he was) put together ₹30,000 to clear his loan. They provided the working capital too so he could start on a clean slate. Today, he gets orders from the government as well, organizes other paraplegics, teaches them and school children his trade. He is also a motivational speaker. All it took to change his world for the better was some compassion from the giver who didn’t even feel the pinch. Besides, there is many a lesson to be learnt from the likes of Aji in endurance, tolerance, grit and determination to succeed against severe adversities.
There are several similar stories. Like every drop that makes up the ocean, every rupee donated to charity finds succour for the needy.
The ‘Joy of Giving’ Day is celebrated on May 17th every year. How many of us have ever counted our blessings in life? Do we attribute our prosperity to our successes or capabilities? It’s just that we were blessed with those opportunities which those suffering from poverty, illnesses have been deprived off. Why don’t we put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and think about it? How would we feel if the tables are turned and we find ourselves at the receiving end of such unacceptable behaviour? Therefore, let’s not abdicate our responsibility as good human beings which is to show our concern for those suffering, share their grievances and support them in every way we can. Rather than shift the responsibility to the Government, let’s remind ourselves of the famous quote by US President John F Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Many of us turn away those have-nots who seek help from us (which is natural), seeing their persistent requests for help as a nuisance. There are also those who find dignity in not seeking help no matter how bad their situation is. That is their greatness.
‘The joy of giving’ when it comes from the heart is so exhilarating. For most of us even contributing a decent sum to charity will not make any dent in our savings/wealth, but the beneficiary looks upon the giver as God Himself. It costs only about ₹1,000 to provide a poor family with essential food items for one month, this is what an average middle class family would spend on a single meal in a low-end restaurant. It costs just about ₹500 pm to educate a child in school (where education is free) or like amounts to eradicate malnutrition amongst children or for any other social cause. If only we care, such contributions wouldn’t make any dent in our savings.
One must also be mindful of the fact that it doesn’t take long for our fortunes to reverse. It is true that many people have been reduced to a life of penury merely from the expense of treating a disease in the family. It could be us some day. Why not? If that happens, there is no God who can change our destiny and one gets reconciled to that fate only to feel disappointed that it was too late and a wasted life.
One of the ways to sensitize oneself to such causes is to become a volunteer with any NGO, visit the homes of our suffering brethren and see how the poor and those suffering from various illnesses or from social prejudices or various kinds of harassment be it children’s issues, the aged or women’s issues, live their lives. That will surely be an eye opener and make us realise how blessed we are. If that doesn’t, what will?
According to a recent study titled ‘Time to Care’, carried out ahead of the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual meet, India’s richest 1 per cent hold more than four-times the wealth held by 953 million people who make up for the bottom 70 per cent of the country’s population, while the total wealth of all Indian billionaires is more than the full-year budget. It also stated that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 per cent of the planet’s population. This gives us an idea of the miracles that this amount of wealth can perform if given up in favour of the needy. Anne Frank said, “No one has ever become poor by Giving”. H.Jackson Brown Jr said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those who get more but those who give more”.
Pioneering American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once set the standard for giving back: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others,” he said. “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.” The World’s largest contributors to charity Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Azim Premji, Michale Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg etc have given away a very significant portion of their wealth to charity. We may argue that they have so much wealth that they wouldn’t be able to spend all of that anyway. But, so do many of us. How many of us would even allow for any sum (let alone a decent sum) to Charity even in our WILLS when we don’t need the money anymore after we are gone?
What is it that makes people reluctant to contribute to charity? Is it the fear of insecurity that they might not have enough when they are in need at a later date regardless of the wealth they have? Is it because of our obsession with our children that we need to pass on our financial legacy to them or the fear that otherwise they may not care for us in old age? I believe all these fears are unfounded. There is no guarantee that our wealth can save our life if that is to be our destiny. At the same time, when our time comes we can depart contended that our life has been meaningful and not found to be in vain.
But, all this doesn’t take away the fact that a great deal of alleviation of human suffering is attributed to contributions from various individuals through themselves directly or through NGOs or other philanthropic institutions.
Charity begins at home. Therefore, we need to imbibe our children with lessons on this noble deed so that they grow up to be responsible and caring human beings. For this to happen, we need to set an example ourselves.