Words to live by
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared”
Little did Buddha know that altruism, compassion, empathy – all the qualities that make us humans – would be in short supply hundreds of years later. Or maybe he knew how human life would shape up and that is why he left us with words we can live by easily. And how easy it is to be that candle. In fact, given how self-centered we have grown to become, it’s indeed assuring that while we are giving our happiness away our supplies won’t dwindle even a bit, they will only multiply. There is certainly great truth in Buddha’s quote for otherwise, why would charities, fundraisers, volunteering and championing causes be so popular?
Once, a rich businessman took on teaching slum children to win a wager and learned quickly how important it is to share or spread happiness. More importantly, he learned how spreading happiness does not always involve signing checks and donating money.
It all began after a couple of drinks with a few close friends. The rich businessman boasted of how he changed the skyline of his city and transformed it into an architectural wonder. He spoke of how challenging it was to renovate and redo buildings and landscapes. To this one of his friends commented, “If you find transforming skylines tricky then be glad you are not a teacher.“ The businessman brushed this comment off saying, “If I can transform buildings then I’m sure I can transform people too.” So began the challenge of teaching a bunch of slum children for a month.
On day one at his new job, the businessman had a tough time just adjusting to his surroundings. It was not just the muck and morass that got to him, but also the abject poverty in which these children live that overwhelmed him. Strangely, these children wore the broadest of grins and the businessman really wondered why and how. A couple of days into the assignment, it struck him that what each child shared was an undying spirit and resolute hope that kept them cheerful and content despite their meager income and poor surroundings. Their spirit and hope seemed to be a result of freely sharing. He noticed how seven-year olds shared their notebooks and pencils, and even a packet of biscuits sent int by a parent one day. One 15 year old, fortunate to own a bicycle ferried six preschoolers to school every day. Every time he treated them to chocolates or cakes, each child took his share back home wrapped carefully. It did not occur to them to enjoy his or her ‘spoils’ alone, that too when they had the option. Towards the end of his assignment, the businessman sought an extension with the nonprofit organization that was funding the school. After one short month on the job, he learned more about sharing and consideration than he learned in his lifetime. He also realized that in his bid to transform people, he was today, the most transformed!