Photo courtesy of PIX11 News
Photo courtesy of PIX11 News

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you

-John Bunyan

When I   got my first job   in a small town, I was lucky to get wonderful neighbors.  A lady whom I regularly encountered was Samina, a devout and demure housewife who struggled to feed the family. For several reasons, she remained tethered to the moneylender and her cruel in laws. Samina’s husband had met with a serious accident and the family piled up debts in his treatment .He was the family’s sole bread earner and the family suddenly found itself in a debt pit.    Samina had barely a rupee, and her deadbeat husband would beat her each afternoon. Their house was falling apart, and Samina had to send her young daughter to live with an aunt, because there wasn’t enough food to go around.

I discovered that Samina had very good tailoring hands. I realized that   if she had her own sewing machine, she would have been able to save the family.  The machine was a very big investment for her, but for me it amounted to a small manageable charity .I decided to buy one for her. Samina stuttered with fright wondering whether she would be able to come up to my trust .Feeling desperately sorry, I asked her to believe in herself and me .I assured her I would hold her hands to get the right step on the right ladder and guide the business. Yet Samina’s honest face crumpled in despair. She scratched her head, and finally agreed, warily.

Intent on providing a better life for her children and surviving as best she could ,Samina decided to   take the first rung  irrespective of whether she would be able to make it to the next. Her decision transformed her life.Her fortunes have changed and her children are in schools, assured they will not have to repeat the cruel fate of their mother.

Samina’s business took off quickly, and she began earning enough   to provide for her family, send her daughters to school, and pay for her husband’s medical bills. She gained   the respect she deserved from her husband, who allowed her more freedom and even began to help her with her business ventures.

Samina is now seen by her community as a smart businesswoman. She is now a candle for many others. Her beatific and mystical smile and the blessed words  of benediction   that flow incessantly  from her untiring lips gladden me with hopes that this one little good deed will wash off  my sins.

The idea that helping others makes our lives richer and deeper has been around for thousands of years. Aristotle believed that we could achieve lasting happiness and fulfillment   “by loving rather than in being loved.”  Philanthropists the world over are demonstrating trough their own personal actions that there is great economic, spiritual and social wisdom in exchanging their fortunes for something far more valuable — the chance to improve the quality of life for countless others.

Anonymous benevolence, directed to causes that, unlike people, can give nothing in return, is the   highest form of altruism .it is seen as the most noble of human impulses. No wonder most religions promote it: charity, selflessness, sacrifice, mercy, – the act of giving is nothing short of a calling to elevate humanity.

Having pots of money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. But giving it – even if you’re not rich – is likely to make you feel wealthier, and thus happier .More and more people are developing this vision –it generates the most powerful benevolent human impulses. They are realizing that their life belongs to the whole community and    giving takes them out of themselves and allows them to expand beyond earthly bounds .Making others feel more valued elevates them morally and spiritually    As Winston Churchill emphasized, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Mark Twain reminds us that, “to get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with “. Lao Tzu summed it more pithily:”The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own “

The real magic of giving goes even deeper than that momentary sublimation. As Simone de Beauvoir emphasizes:”That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

More important is that giving should not be with an eye on the returns. It   not only nullifies our act but also burdens the receiver. It makes the other person come under the burden e of an obligation. Kahlil Gibran emphasizes that we should give with our full emotional being .it should not just be a physical gift, but a pouring   of our entire love. He writes in The Prophet: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”Remember, half a seed cannot germinate. After planting your seeds, you should expect absolutely nothing in return. It is nobler to follow the Biblical injunction. “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth”.

Every giver possesses two disconnected commodities:  wealth and convictions. Alone, they have no spiritual value. But the alchemy of these virtues can empower the wealthy to transmute the dross of their wealth into the gold of a happy human community. Abraham Lincoln puts it more pithily:” To ease another’s heartache Is to forget one’s own”. Whatever pushes us to help others – to get close to people in need, in pain, or to spread joy through our own energy, time, sweat and courage – it is something that deeply touches and nourishes our soul.

Tagore’s poignant thought has profound resonance: “I have found it impossible to soothe suffering patients from a song of Kabir. When all about me are dying for want of food the only occupation permissible for me is to feed the hungry.”

We are all governed by layers of disparate emotions and motivations. Love is not always as pure as people like to think. It is complicated by neediness and insecurity and constantly threatens our life with grief .But acts of giving produce positive vibes which wash off the stains of    toxic emotions.

The great American President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us a wonderful mantra way back in 1937. It is more relevant today than ever before:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”   Kahlil Gibran suggests something still better: “Give while the season of giving is here so that your coffer is not empty when you die.”

Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at


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  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    A valuable thing, however snall, plays a crucial role in the development of any individual. A gift may not be necessarily gorgeous …even a simple thing can do wonders if it is given in time