In grade school, we read an inspiring Urdu poem about rain clouds and the dry earth. Looking at the massive acreage of the parched earth, each raindrop felt reluctant to sacrifice its all, given the miniscule impact it would make relative to the need. A few courageous ones took the lead, and others followed; together, they succeeded in providing water for all. Each of the makers of the little miracles I discuss below resembles a raindrop: insignificant in comparison to the needs, but enough to create a revolution if we choose to follow their lead.
One man felt deeply for children he saw begging for money and rummaging through the garbage in his neighbourhood. He persuaded a teacher to go part time at her professional job and volunteer to teach these underprivileged children. Initially, parents did not appear particularly grateful. When a quake destroyed the rundown building they were using as a school, she quit in frustration. Parents, children and the community united to pool their meagre resources, rebuilt the school and called her back. Her devotion and sacrifice were stronger than the building. There is now a functional school providing quality education to about 200 children from the lowest ranks of society in an impoverished Rawalpindi neighbourhood.
A well-off doctor decided she should give thanks for all the comforts and luxury she had enjoyed. She retired early and set up a free clinic in a nearby slum. She gained the trust of the community who asked her to expand her services to schooling. Though without experience, she recruited volunteers to help her set one up. She recounts as one of her most satisfying experiences a meeting at which people were discussing a difficult financial obstacle. An initial attitude of helplessness generated by poverty had been replaced by the lesson that dignity and worth derive from character and good conduct, real wealth is the contentment of the hearts, and strength derives from community.
Cancer is a dreaded disease. Treatment is expensive, painful and uncertain. Liquidating family assets or allowing loved ones to die for lack of money are common stories. A doctor offering the best available treatment at no cost appears as an angel of mercy. Highly qualified in his field, he leads a simple lifestyle while raising millions for his needy patients. Instead of money and luxury, he is motivated by the desire to serve humanity.
Imagine trying to sleep outdoors on a cold Islamabad winter night. A warm hearted individual loads his pickup with blankets, and places them on all the homeless people sleeping outdoors that he can find. Another person provides meals to day labourers. A third man purchased a building within a slum to set up a community civic centre. This has gradually expanded to provide essential food grains at subsidised prices, occupational training to men and women, a medical clinic and certain other social services. Recent research by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy reveals the paradox that Pakistanis are very generous and charitable, while not regarding themselves as being such.
I am grateful to God for allowing me to witness hundreds of such small miracles happening all around me. I pray that I may also become part of this process by which God heals the earth. It is hard to imagine spring when looking at a forbidding dead and barren landscape. But sharp eyes can still make out scattered buds and flashes of colours in the distance, which herald the hope of the coming of spring.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2010.
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