Helping a man in need
| The newspaper girl delivered our paper. After some time, my wife called out to me,
"Your friend has died," she said. "They write it in the paper and also in the obituary."
I took the paper and carefully read both the news and the obituary. Yes, the man my wife called 'your friend' had died. His death was sudden and unexpected. For some time, I felt sad. Then, I thought about him, I felt calm and at peace in my heart.
How did I come to experience calmness and peace in my heart when a friend died? Here's the story. Read it and then you can judge.
I attended an important meeting on the outskirts of the city. While the meeting was going on, I received a call. I knew this because I had kept my mobile switched on, just in silent mode. I saw from the screen that it was my friend. As it was him, I left the meeting and answered his call.
From his voice, I could sense that it distressed him. He told me,Â "Bah (Elder brother), I am in trouble. You are the only person I could think of at this moment who could rescue me. Please help me. I need a big favor and please do not say no. Please, please help me."
I told him I was in a meeting, but he insisted that the matter was urgent and that he could not explain the details on the phone. He needed to see me in person. I had to choose between the urgent need of my friend and the meeting I was attending.
Thinking about the situation, I felt the need for my friend was more compelling than my presence in the meeting. So, I left to see my friend.
Sensing from his voice, the urgency and privacy required, I thought my house would be the best place for us to meet. He knew the area I lived in, but not the exact location. I asked him how he would find my house, but he replied he would manage.
While driving home, I kept thinking about this person I call 'my friend'. A few years earlier, he had come to my office for his personal work. He introduced himself and we talked. I helped him to get his work done. That was all. But now and then, he would drop into my office to have a cup of tea or coffee. In course of time, we found we had many things in common.
Still occupied with my thoughts, I reached home. My friend arrived a few minutes after me. Looking at his face, I could see instantly that he was really in a bad way. He did not tell me the details, but he simply said,
"Bah, I am in a crisis. I need some money immediately. Nobody would help me with this amount of money I need. You are the only person I can turn to in this matter. I have a very personal problem with which I need money immediately. I do not know when I will return the money, but I will one day. Please rescue me."
Listening to him, many things flooded my mind. In his earlier visits to my office, he was never like this. His condition and desperation shocked me. It confused me to think clearly. Judging by his face and body language, I knew in my heart that he really needed the money. But the amount was rather large for me.
Was the amount he was asking really too much? Well, it depends on how you look at things. To a rich man, it would be a small sum. To a poor man, it would be a tremendous amount. And to me? The amount my friend needed equaled five months of my salary in the job where I was working.
Five months' salary! It was difficult to decide whether to give so much of my hard-earned money to another person just like that. I was in a dilemma. What should I do? Could I find a way out of this? I could not decide what to do. Then I was thinking of multiple reasons to say no. I thought I could invent several excuses.
I could tell him I did not have so much money. However, that would be a lie. Presently, I had enough money in my account. I do not tell lies. I had learned the hard way, and many lessons taught me not to tell lies. Telling a lie would be bad for the other person, but it would be worst for me- because I would know in my heart that I was telling a lie.
Suppose that I told him I did not have the money, when in fact I did, what then? I had experienced such situations before. Asking for money from others, even from relatives, was hell. Then the feeling of disgust and betrayal toward those who would not help me, when in fact they could. Some invented lame excuses, and some blatantly lied. The hard part to take was their pretentiousness and hypocrisy.
But I am forever indebted to those kind souls who helped me in times of need. There are still good people who would go to any length to help their fellow human beings. The world is a better place because of them. I am what I am today was because of such people who helped me unconditionally.
I have learned that telling such lies was a curse. I had seen people knowingly acknowledging that they did not have money when, in fact, they did. They cursed themselves. Those people could never enjoy that money that they had.
But Lazar came to my mind (If you do not know him, please read 'My Worst Christmas'). Last time I ran away from him, in person. This time I could not run away from him in spirit. Hiding and running away from the spirit was impossible. Lazar had taught me not to live a life of bitterness and regret just because of money.
Weighing up options, I decided. I gave my friend the money he asked for. I wrote the check and gave it to him. He was so happy that words could not describe the radiance on his face when he took the check. And to me, that was a genuine joy.
When he left my house, I walked with him to the gate. Then I sensed that something was wrong. The way he walked and talked made me wonder. I did not know why, but I had a hunch that something was wrong with him. I knew he was sober, but suddenly he behaved as if he was drunk. He was shaky, and it slurred his speech.
Well, I helped him when he needed my helping hand. That was the last time I saw him.
Then today, less than a month after I gave him the money, I read about his death in the newspaper. The paper wrote that he had recently suffered from a rare incurable disease. He died while getting treatment in the hospital. I did not understand the last time he left our house, but probably I had been seeing the onset of his disease. No doubt he desperately needed money for his medical treatment.
Now, reading his obituary, I felt sad for his family, but deep inside me; I was calm and peaceful. I ponder over this and ask why? About his death - I am just another human being, I cannot prevent it. About his life - I did the best I could, I helped him when he needed me.
And what about the money I had given, did I lose it? An adventurous young man learning how to drive could buy a brand new motorbike with that amount of money and explore the world. A struggling new entrepreneur could start a new business and prosper. A homemaker could put the money in the bank and withdraw it in times of need.
However, to me, as an ex-banker, this was one of the best investments I had ever made in my life. The happiness on the face of my friend when I handed him the check, the joy of giving, and the peace deep inside my heart which surpassed all understanding, is what I will forever cherish more than anything else.