On various auspicious occasions we light a lamp or burn a candle. When I see a lighted lamp or a candle I think of the sentiments and ideas behind it. Hence the question: Why do we light a lamp or burn a candle?

Here I am reminded of a poem by Poet Ravindranath Tagore. It says:  “Go not to the temple to light a candle before the altar of God.  First you remove the darkness of sin from your own heart.” I like this stanza of Tagore’s poem because of its relevance to all people of all times.

We light lamps on Diwali feasts. The lighted lamps call us to look into ourselves and remover from our lives the things which bring darkness like selfishness, jealously, neglect of the poor, hatred, hoarding of wealth and attachment to them. These are sins both internal and external. We need to get rid of them all. They need to be replaced by good works, which light up our hearts and our whole lives.

Let us not miss any opportunity to do good. I am on the road. At the Income Tax cross road at Ahmedabad I stopped my car and I saw an autorickshaw stopping close by. As the auto stopped a child with protruding ribs extended both his hands before a beautiful young lady in the auto. The lady looked at the child and then opened her purse putting her right hand in it.

Like me the boy might have thought that she would take out a five rupee coin or a ten rupee note to give as alms … But instead, she took out a small looking glass and began to adjust her eye-brows and curly hair. The child continue staring at her and stretching his hands. Meanwhile, thinking that the disappointed boy may come to my car I hurriedly took out a ten rupee note from my purse. But then the red light turned into green and I took a U turn to go to Stadium 6 road crossing.

At Stadium cross roads when I stopped my car at red light signal I saw a pregnant woman. The emancipated woman was carrying an undernourished child in one hand and begging bowl in the other. I usually do not help the beggars at cross roads as they could not only obstruct traffics but also cause accidents. The woman was away from me and still I opened my car window and took the 10 rupee note. The woman seeing me opening the window came quickly to me and took the money saying something like “God bless you” and moved to the next vehicle.

On any and every occasion we can enjoy the joy of selfless giving. For instance, smiling at the person looking at you, you can share your joy of being happy with a fellow human being. The poor people are always there in our midst. Helping them in their needs without expecting anything in return gives us unalloyed joy.

Recently I heard a story of sharing joy of selfless giving. My nephew Sanu Vincent was driving my sister Sr Lissy Paul and me to Ernakulam railway station. To cover a distance of less than two hours, we started three hours ahead from home as some times heavy traffic might prolong the journey. To my inquisitive sister Sanu was telling about his works and how his 45 workers in his automobile garage are happy without any problem.

“I am happy to hear that your workers and their families are happy as they get regularly good salaries and incentives. But do you help any poor people?” Lissy asked.

“Yes, Aunty. I help two-three needy families,” Sanu said.

But the inquisitive aunty was not satisfied with the short reply. “Whom are you helping and what sort of help you give them?” Lissy asked.

There was not much traffic on the way and Sanu was driving and talking in a relaxed way. He narrated one after another not two or three but five poor people whom he helps on a regular basis. Here I remember the fifth family whom he was helping.

One day a boy came to his garage to sell home appliances.  An automobile service station is not a place to sell home appliances. So before his secretary send the boy away, Sanu called him to his cabin and enquired about his business. The boy narrated his story. He has recently left the school to help his mother to run the house after his father, a daily wage earner, got paralyzed on one side and was  bedridden at home. His mother runs the home with her meager earning by cleaning and doing other household works of three families in their neighbourhood. His younger sister is still studying in school.

Sanu felt that he should help the boy to continue his study. Still not to be cheated Sanu visited the home of the boy in the following Sunday and found that everything was true as the boy had said. So he told the boy’s mother that he would help regularly her with their house rent and the boys school fees. So he was helping the family with a fixed amount every month.

The joy is great in helping a needy person without expectation of getting anything in return. Someone has said that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. As if a proof of the saying Sanu concluded his narration of selfless help saying, “Aunty, what we give away is our true wealth”.

Everyone knows that in giving there is joy. But people have hundred and one reasons for not selflessly helping needy people. Some say, “How can I help anyone when there is not enough for me and for my family?”  Someone else will say, “The poor people are lazy; they do not want to work. So they remain poor.” Still others will say, “The poor people suffer much because of their past life or of the evil they committed in their previous birth! There is no escape as they have to pay the debt of their former births!” Some people even have advice to the poor and needy people: “They should share even what they have recognizing others as their own brothers and sisters.”

People who are generous in their hearts will find ways and means to help needy people even when they do not possess much wealth. Let me recall here a well know story of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. He was from an aristocratic family. But with a noble heart he was very kind and generous towards poor and needy people.

One day Tolstoy was walking on a road. On the way he met some very poor people. He helped every one of them generously giving some money. Then, he saw a miserable looking man in rags with an extended hand. Tolstoy as usual wanted to help him. He put his hand in his coat’s pocket and he realized that his pocket was empty. There was not a coin left! The man in rags was looking at him with great expectation. Tolstoy embracing the man with much love and said, “Brother, please forgive me. I do not have even a small coin left in my pocket to give you!”

The poor man’s eyes brightened up. “Sir”, he said, “You have embraced me with much love and you called me ‘Brother’! It is much more than any money you can give me!” (A M D G)

Changed On: 16-11-2018

Next Change: 01-12-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018