The man who taught me how to give

Published: May 12, 2011
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Being poor does not make you a beggar.

I was not too surprised when I saw the elderly man on the side of the Islamabad highway. Beggars are a common sight on the road and drivers are used to ignoring them. But as I waited at the traffic signal, I noticed the man stepping onto the road. The light had just turned red and the timer had started. He only had a few seconds to get someone’s attention.

Watching him from the car, I assumed he was asking for money, but his movements suggested otherwise. There was no weariness, no weakness in his movements, which is usually associated with people of his age. Rather, he was moving rapidly; as he got closer to our car I saw his face closely. It was drenched, not from the sweat due to the blistering heat, but with tears.

Finally, he reached our car.

Still wondering what he was doing I rolled down the window and tried to hand him some money. But he pushed away my offering with both his hands.

“I don’t want your money!”

Putting the money away, I asked him what the problem was and he told me his little granddaughter had been hit by a “white car” and he needed a lift back to his home, a “kachhi abaadi” some kilometres down the same road. The little girl had been brutally injured and the car that hit her had disappeared. He had no money for a taxi or any other way of getting home. He was too tired and thirsty to walk so far.

The traffic lights turned green and the annoyed, impatient drivers behind us began to honk their horns.

I was stunned. I asked him to sit in the car. On the way towards his house, the man did not say a word to us; he prayed quietly to himself, asking God to have mercy on his granddaughter. Then, he put his hand on my shoulder and thanked me, his voice full of gratitude. I put my hand on his, but couldn’t respond.

After a few minutes, he asked me to stop the car.

I could see a group of people in the near distance, standing outside a small house – the old man’s house.

As soon as the car stopped he thanked me once again, telling me he will pray for my well-being and hurriedly got out of the car. I followed and called after him. Did he need any more help, any money, a means of taking the little girl to hospital? But he took my hands in his and told me that I had done more than enough for him – I had brought him home.

He said he could not accept my money because he was not a beggar. He told me he and his sons were labourers and they would have enough money to get the girl treated. He said:

“Allah has been kind to my family but now we are being tested.”

The brief encounter changed my perceptions about how to help the needy. They are not all the same. They don’t want our money, they are not beggars. They too, have a high sense of self esteem. All they want is a little help and a sense of respect from their fellow countrymen, which we, the so called upper and middle classes don’t give them.

So, the next time someone comes knocking on your window while you are in your car or even if you’re at home, think twice before dismissing them. They could just be trying to reach out to you.

Saad Hafeez

Saad Hafeez

A British Pakistani living and studying in London.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Maria

    A very moving story of the human condition. I have long held that the common Pakistani is the soul of Pakistan. He has not been corrupted by the partially educated but insensitive classes who have fooled themselves into believing in entitlement. I recall many years ago a simple vendor running after a bus to insist that I take the change from some fruit that I had bought. I didn’t want the change but the fellow insisted that I take it back because otherwise I was disrespecting him. Our national character remains with these types of Pakistanis. Our so called educated people and so called elite class are the real beggers.Recommend

  • Amna

    Excellant Recommend

  • Khan

    PoignantRecommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Saad Hafeez I don’t loose hope because of blogger like you. Can’t say anything more but Respect! n May you have Peace!. Recommend

  • Patakha

    Lovely piece, almost had goosebumpsRecommend

  • mANI

    but how to recognize who is professional beggar and who is ral needyRecommend

  • SJ

    Thank you Saad for sharing your story. Very moving indeed. We need to bring back that trust factor in our society. A lot of people hesitate to help because they are scared that it might be a trap. we hear a lot of good and bad stories every now and then. Problem is bad stories get all the coverage in press. More we read about the stories like yours, better it is. I think someone should publish a newspaper called “Good News Paper”. No doom and gloom just the good stories. And the publisher will go broke in a week, hehehe.Recommend

  • parvez

    Its good to read something like this every now and then.Recommend

  • Shano bajee

    Excellent! I really salute such people who are the real representation of our society.Not only me but every one who has kind feelings for the humanity wants to help people like this old man. Till i was not approached to the ending lines of the article i was praying that all the situation might end with some thing good.Actual problem is “How to differentiate needy from the habitual beggar”.Recommend

  • Hammad

    Thanks Man for sharing this captivating tale of Self respect the real Pakistani’s are Quite Endangered these days glad you found one. Now You have embarrassed me honestly, I am quite reluctant when it comes to road side needies.
    I’ll try to change my self for good GOD WILLING. I think you are doing SOME constructive blogging consistently.Recommend

  • fahad siddiqui

    Amazing thanks for sharing saad …… really touchy Recommend

  • Humanity

    God bless you Saad and may God help the poor, helpless humanity to live with dignity and respect. These people are closer to God than the ungrateful who have every thing and want more.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @mANI:
    thats simple, real needy will ask for your help, may be he will say I have such n such problem and i need help, in case he do needs money he will say this much, like I remember I was asked by a guy back some years, looking neat n clean who said he lost his wallet and needed this much to go out of city as bus is just leaving. When given, he ran for the bus.
    What strikes me as I just re-read Saad’s article, we in cities don’t realize this until we leave city to go in a small village. They are so hospitable and it will be an utmost insult to them if you go on spending you own money for something even if some as trivial as “shahi supari”.
    I am not talking about any specific place but all the province east west north south in Pakistan. while we in cities are so Un-hospitable it just don’t have words.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Yeah, last time i did that i had a gun on my head and my phone and my wallet was taken from me. Not everyone’s a saint or ‘reaching out to me’Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Ahmed:
    Wow sorry to hear what happened to you man, but I think what the author’s trying to say is while not everyone is reaching out to us, not everyone is out to get/take money/belongings from us either, so best to remember that as well! Cheers! Recommend

  • Nobody

    Lovely piece! Always nice to hear things of this nature instead of a constant barrage of the all-too-common bad news. Recommend

  • Kiani

    nice but everyone is not as dignified as this old man… i had a similar experience and after dropping the lil kids i off realized my cell phone was also gone from my hand bag which i had safely tucked away….yet they had their way into it…Recommend

  • kaun

    wow, I can imagine how you felt. obviously there are going to be people who’ve experienced quite the opposite of what you’re talking about, but that still doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Bravo!Recommend

  • http://www.regeneration-dot-com.blogspot.com Sajjad Ahmed

    A very moving article. Well done to the the writer !Recommend

  • miss khan

    very well written and a very moving article!Recommend

  • Waqas Rasool

    Good work!Recommend

  • Shehryar

    Well done Mr. Hafeez. You made us Pakistanis proud.Recommend

  • Shiraz

    U would be writing a different story if the same guy would have pulled a gun and robbed u off the car ur money ur phone and ur sanity. U cannot trust ppl here . Good to know it was a genuine case and you helped himRecommend

  • Saad H

    @Shiraz:
    You have no idea how much stick I got when I went home after this whole incident. The usual things were shouted at me, he could’ve kidnapped me, he might have been a terrorist etc etc. and our driver had an even harder time from my family for letting me do this. But, at the time I didn’t think of any of these things, all I knew was that I had to help the man.Recommend

  • Munzir Naqvi

    Dear Saad:

    Don’t worry about the negative comments. You did the honorable thing. That is what shows courage on your side. If that isn’t courage, than I don’t know what is. That’s what makes this story even more inspiring. Others would have used the excuses that others may have said. You put cynicism aside and did the right thing.

    That’s what makes you doing what you did, even more special. Thank you for doing the right thing. Sure, something may have happened, but at least you do not have a guilty conscience. I commend you. It is the people like you that help the world move forward. Recommend

  • WS

    your story really moved me. Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Saad, my friend, what you did was a laudable act. It shows faith. And trust me, a wallet or other stuff is not a high price for retaining your faith. It could’ve been any of us in that man’s place. Recommend