Since the time you were a toddler I have always observed you to be a generous child. In fact, there have been times that I have reprimanded you for blindly giving away things or doing favors for friends that did not necessarily get reciprocated. I would feel that the world would exploit this vulnerable quality of yours. I guess that was my maternal instinct trying to protect you. But now that you’ve grown up I feel you should nurture this quality into something more meaningful.
In my last letter to you I’d mentioned about kindness and empathy. There are certain emotions that serve to nourish our souls. Kindness and gratitude not only nourish your soul but also create positive vibrations around you. One can consciously practise these emotions till they become a part of your life.
Kindness is selfless and the gentlest of emotions. When one is kind it is not difficult to feel gratitude. Gratitude is one of the many beautiful qualities in a kind person. I’m sure by now you’re wondering why your mum is feeding you with so much philosophy. The reason I am writing to you about this is because I have known these emotions to have caused miracles if adapted in your daily life. They are powerful enough to come back to you multiplied in manifold ways. If you’ve heard the adage, ‘What you sow is what you reap,’ you would understand what I’m getting at.
A few years back I had attended an Art of Living workshop in Mumbai. The participants were asked to do at least one act of kindness each day for the entire duration of the workshop which was about seven days. The next day I went looking for stray dogs in the vicinity with some food for them. The day after our instructor at the workshop asked us to do a different act of kindness than the one we did the previous day. I did my bit by buying some coloring books from the children who hawk at the traffic signals, although I didn’t really need them. The day after I helped a colleague cope with her stress by listening patiently to her and advising her on how to deal with it. But each day I had to sit and figure out what different act of kindness could I do the next day. Must say, it wasn’t easy at all coz I hadn’t really spared a thought to it before that. But the joy of doing that exercise opened up a new way of thinking for me. Slowly I became more vigilant on how people reacted to their surroundings and how it affected them.
A colleague of mine was known to be a shrewd person and had the reputation of being selfish. On one of my official tours with him, we happened to cross a famous temple. After we offered our prayers and stepped out of the temple, we stopped by at a tea and snacks stall to grab something. My colleague did something then that took me completely by surprise. As seen outside most Indian temples there was a group of beggars who followed us begging us for alms. When we stopped at the food stall serving ‘vada paav,’ my colleague instructed the food hawker to serve all the beggars with as many ‘vada-paavs’ as they wanted. He also went ahead to tell the beggars to call their other mates who were missing. Soon the group of six to seven beggars turned into a large group of twenty-five to thirty beggars. I had no words for my colleague’s act. He was the last person I would have expected to be so generous. When I questioned him about it he replied saying, ‘Dua lagti hai inki,’ meaning ‘their (beggars) prayers affect us.’ I was stumped by how simple his philosophy was. Give as generously as you can to the needy and in return they bless you by praying for you. By doing this act you also express your own gratitude for being able to do this help for them. After discovering this side of my colleague I quietly used to observe him do the same for street urchins outside our office building. It is worth observing such people and imbibing the good qualities from them.
A few years back I was introduced to the formal term used to describe this process. ‘Tithing’ is a way to bring God into our work and our relationship with money. To tithe means to give a certain percentage of our income to God. Of course, we can’t give directly to God, so in practice, we tithe to that which inspires us to draw closer to God. Tithe means ‘one-tenth,’ so traditionally we give 10%, but in fact we can give any percentage we choose. Sometimes we need to start small until we can build up our faith – http://www.anandapaloalto.org. Now you know why we make those quiet trips to the orphanage and old age homes close to our house. Have you noticed that sense of contentment one feels after sharing a bit of what we can with these less fortunate souls? Besides sharing materialistic things one can also share their knowledge, volunteer free services and do small random acts of kindness to make someone’s day. Remember how good you felt after playing ‘Housie’ at the old age home once with the inmates of the home? Although it was a part of a school project, the mere act of doing something good for someone fills you with gratitude. You could further offer your kindness by carrying the heavy shopping bags for your mum whenever we go shopping. 😉 Jokes apart, I’m now hooked to expressing kindness and gratitude by doing what I can for people who need it. I do hope you get into the same practice to do your bit of kindness for the world, coz the world needs it and so do you. God bless you, my child.