LEO Tolstoy, the great Russian author, writes about walking down a street and passing a beggar. Tolstoy reached into his pocket to give the beggar some money, but alas, his pocket was empty. Turning to the beggar, Tolstoy told him, “I’m sorry brother, but I have nothing to give!”
The beggar’s face brightened and smiling, he told Tolstoy, “You have given me more than I asked for; you have called me brother!” Says Max Lucado, “To the loved a word of affection is a morsel, but to the love starved, a word of affection can be a feast.”
A few days ago, the girl who sweeps our staircase and takes out our garbage told me that my friend wanted to see me. I was puzzled, till I saw her old father-in-law, all skin and bones climbing slowly up the stairs. We laughed together and as I gave him an affectionate hug he turned and told me, “Remember how others scolded you for calling me your friend?”
It was during one of our daily meetings, when I as chairman of the society had to deal with him, and the cleanliness he maintained and quite often didn’t. While speaking with him, I told him, a bit firmly that I wanted the cleaning work done with more discipline, and he replied in his Haryana dialect, which I didn’t catch on immediately, but which another lady member caught on to, “Bob,” she said angrily, “He just called you his friend! How do you tolerate such nonsense from him?”
Today, as I see many in prison, who like the late Father Stan, tried to put a hand on the shoulder of Dalits and others who our politicians and maybe you look down on, I see what joy the beggar must have felt to be called, ‘a brother’.
But we as a nation, don’t notice these our less fortunate. Oh no, we look with adulation at our billionaires, and try to put our Facebook hands around them. Let’s go back two thousand years: A heavenly choir singing in the sky, announcing the birth of a God on earth. And who do they sing to? To the musically inclined? To those who appreciate choral harmony, and exclaim, “What divine music!”?
No, my dear readers, they sang to the discards of society. To the keepers of sheep, who had to look after the flocks of their owners not during the day, but working the night shift! The heart of the babe born in a manger is with the poorest of the poor, with the outcastes and others we treat as untouchables!
Touch them this Christmas season. Call them, ‘brother’ and treat them as one. Hug them, not royalty and other world leaders, then and only then, will their faces brighten as they say, “You have given me more than I asked for..!”