“Are you ready to sacrifice who you are for what you will become?”
– Eric Thomas (Motivational speaker and Christian preacher from Chicago, Illinois, USA)
I was at the War Memorial in Perth, Australia, where I read the descriptions of various soldiers who laid their lives down during the first and Second World War. I wondered why I was feeling inspired and emotional as I had nothing to do with Australia or the world wars. In the past, my visits to Kashmir and war memorials in India had filled my heart with inspiration. I was surprised as similar feelings swelled in my heart even thousands of miles away in Western Australia.
The mystery got solved today during my taxi driver in Mumbai. Abdul Hamid Khan is a 71-year-old driving taxi since the last 45 years. He is over six feet, handsome, and effulgent; his appearance defies old age that has invaded his life.
It was hot and humid, yet he looked peaceful. We picked up a conversation, and I learned about his life. He said as a matter of the fact that he has five daughters and the youngest one is unmarried yet. That compels him to drive a taxi. I asked him the secret of his good health, and immediately he said he parts with twenty-five percent of his daily earnings to the local Madrasa– the Islamic school for needy children. That keeps him peaceful, he said.
As I silently heard him, he wondered if I had my reservations. I was in saffron robes- the dress of a Hindu monk, while he was a bearded elderly Muslim, dressed in his Muslim cap and salwar kameez. Our different dresses – which are prominent symbols of our religious faith-and our lively discussion attracted surprised looks from other vehicles. Even the pedestrians had a quizzical expression on their faces.
I asked him if the mosques are religious centers or breeding ground of hate and violence. He laughed and confessed that my misgivings were not entirely false. However, he said, madrasas were different- they were places where poor children got shelter. He spoke with enthusiasm about how serving the poor gives him good health. I asked him when he needs money, how could he afford to give away twenty-five percent daily. He said giving is his religion; that alone gives him strength and grace of God. I asked him if he had any advice for me as he was not only much older to me, but also more experienced in life. He said, “Sir, the only thing I beg of everyone is, please remain humble and grateful. Pride and arrogance are destroying this world. Let’s be small and make this world a better place by our humility.”
When I left him, it was the same feeling as at the martyr’s tombs. I realized there was a man who sacrificed his hard earned wealth for a cause that was dear to him- to help needy children get educated. Wherever there is a sacrifice to spread goodness, it is attractive. I knew he needs money badly, yet he chose to give it away for a noble cause. Young soldiers who lay down their lives for the country do the same. They could enjoy, explore the world, grow, love, and raise a family, yet they leave it all behind to serve. A dedication to a higher responsibility calls upon the sacrifice, and a genuine giving away of ourselves for the well-being of others is a universally attractive phenomenon.
When I left Abdul Khan, I was humbled and also inspired to serve.