Sunday, December 30, 2012

Of Gifts and Return Gifts

Recently, a senior colleague of mine came in from the United States to meet with us.  Let me call her M. A feisty lady, strong willed and tough, she had a gentle side too as I discovered.  I liked her. She was warm and caring. She wanted to meet some orphan children at a modestly funded NGO in Hyderabad. She had come prepared for the visit having spent a whole day shopping for gifts for girls. Her goodies included some shampoo, hair oils, bright-hued hair pins and clips, some chap sticks for cracked lips and warm clothes for the mild winter of Hyderabad. Very thoughtful!

Her trip to the orphanage was eventful, both for her and for many others who she had invited to accompany her. Giving is very touching. The girls were very excited. What M did was to make sure that there was a more sustainable program that would give the orphans a decent education and a life. She had come to the place a year ago, and on that visit, had promised a girl that she would return — and she did. She gave the girls hope, a vision, a reason to live, and a life of accomplishment. Very heartrending!

Later that evening, she called her teenage son who was in college in the US, (his morning) and recounted the day, of where it all started – the day of shopping for gifts for the orphans, to the day she spent with them.  M told me about her chat with her son and the calmness that she had experienced. She added that he seemed ‘off-color’ and was more lost in the exams that were a day away. I told her that one never knows what children pick up as values, and that she could be surprised.

The next day, I met M in the morning, and she had just got off a call from her son. She had asked him whether he had studied well for his exams. He mentioned quite casually that he had gone to the supermarket and spent over four hours. M was furious and asked what he kept him away from his studies for half a day. Her son replied that he had been shopping for warm blankets and food for those affected by cyclone Sandy. He had also formed a group of friends who would help the homeless.

M’s eyes were moist. She no longer cared about the exams. Her son had passed the test, the test of what matters in life – values. She had a faraway look in her eyes.  The gift had been returned and how!  I smiled.