Help with a Motive

According to the newspapers, the heat wave was causing fainting spells, so the young lady wasn't surprised to see the middle-aged man next to her in church slump down towards the floor. Quickly she knelt down beside him, placed a firm hand on his head and pushed it down between the knees. " Keep your head down," she whispered urgently." You'll feel better if you can get the blood into your head." The man's wife looked on convulsed with laughter and did nothing to help her husband or the young lady. She must be quite heartless, the young lady decided. Then, to her dismay, the man managed to break loose from her muscular hold and hissed, " What are you up to, you meddling fool? I'm trying to retrieve my hat from under the bench!"

People who try hard to improve things frequently achieve remarkable success in making them worse. In the final analysis, the solution to problems lies neither in action nor in inaction but in understanding, for where there's true understanding , there's no problem. Years ago, an old gentleman gave me a golden advice: Service is good. But one must know, when to serve and when not to. Service is like sympathy. There're times, when words of sympathy simply put you off and there're occasions when no help is the best help. At times, some of us behave in an over philanthropic manner and try (nay, show off) to help out people in distress only to increase their miseries. We don't try to understand the root of any issue and jump headlong. The overzealous attitude to help and mitigate the intensity of problems only increases it manifold. Confucius was dying, a few disciples were trying their level best to thwart the inevitable by applying all sorts of remedies. Irritated, yet retaining his proverbial sense of humour, Confucius told those over enthusiastic disciples, 'Please don't try anything, you're hastening  my end. Let me be with you all for a few moments more.' Everything, however good or well-intentioned it may be, has its utility in certain circumstances. When you're thirsty, only water can quench your thirst, not wine. We must understand the usefulness of our actions according to the need of the situation. 

Always remember the Turkish adage: Always extend your hand to help, but should also know when to put it in pocket. When help is uncalled for, it's sure to backfire. If you look into the whole phenomenon of helping out others, you'll often notice a subtle condescension on the part of those who help. Agreed, all those who help people don't have any motive at all, but many a time, a sense of helping others stems from deep-seated pontification and air of superiority over the less privileged. That's why many true philanthropists never disclose their identity/name while donating a big sum to an organization. They deliberately choose anonymity. The moment we flaunt our act/s of helping people, we've the secret desire to get a mileage out of it. Bukhari mentioned a thought-provoking episode in the life of Muhammad. 

Once Muhammad was sitting with his disciples. One of them said, 'Rasool, yesterday night I gave a bagful of dates andgera (a kind of Arabian bread in those days that used to be eaten after soaking in camel's milk) to a poor Jewish woman.' Muhammad heard and smirked. That man repeated what he did for the poor Jewish woman. Muhammad again smirked and said nothing. Frustrated, that disciple again said the same thing. This time Muhammad said, 'Shame on you! You helped her and now telling everyone that what a great thing you've done! Your help has a ring of artificiality and dishonesty to it. You just want praise from others. You've degraded yourself and insulted your faith.' 

Many of us are like that self-seeking disciple of Rasool, who paint the city red when they do something good for someone. Human beings are crazy, nay paranoid, about publicity and popularity. We all seek a few moments of fleeting glory, even if that be moonshine. Our so-called philanthropy is often an act of publicity.             
                                                      ----Sumit Paul