When my children were in kindergarten, I used to pick them up. An old cobbler sat under the large banyan tree, next to the parking lot. And as luck would have it I usually found space to park my car next to his stall. By and by I started bringing shoes for repair because I could see that he would not accept alms. One day I saw a small boy with him, thinking that the child must be the old man’s grandchild, I struck up a conversation with him. Finding out that the small boy was his son was quite shocking and that he had a jobless elder son and an unmarried daughter. He was there because he had been kicked out of school because of non-payment of fees. I often saw the little boy there with a woeful expression on his face looking at the laughing kids rushing out of school hanging on to their parents.
Seeing this my heart used to ache and I was at my wits end trying to figure out ways to help that small boy. As Eid (Muslim religious festival) was drawing near I thought the best way was to buy gifts for the whole family. I talked to my kids, both were quite young at that time barely five and seven, they immediately warmed up to the idea. We bought clothes for the entire family, bangles and henna for the girl and toys for the boy. We gave them the gifts before Eid holidays. After the holidays I was sad when I didn’t see the old man in his usual place thinking that maybe I had hurt his pride. My children were also curious as to why the old man was not there.
Imagine my surprise one day when I was pulling out of the parking lot, I saw the old man holding a netted bag in his hand. He handed me the bag full of dead quails (a bird, eaten as a delicacy in our country), which he had caught to repay me and which would have had fetched him a handsome amount sold in the open market. I was so overwhelmed that I started crying, he insisted that I take it as he could not buy me anything. I took that bag from him and I thanked God for the miracle of giving.

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Dear Zulekha,

Thank you for writing about this poignant relationship. You have illuminated the universal quality of human dignity. You have also raised the universal question of who benefits more in humanitarian situation, the recipient of the giver.

Your sister,

Jan

Jan Askin

Dear Zulekha,

I love how you took time and care to notice this family, to think about them deeply, and then to give to them. I hope the boy found a way to go to school, but at the very least, they will remember your act of kindness and that is a great type of education in and of itself.

Frances

Your story was very refreshing. It is always nice to hear about the good that is going on in the world and that there are people like you out there! Thank you for sharing your story.

Sally