3 September 2013 Comments Off on Little Miracles

Little Miracles

Link to Express-Tribune version of this article.
A blog describing the level of Charity in Pakistan: [link]

Little Miracles
Dr. Asad Zaman

            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 amply 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 and rummaging through the garbage in his neighborhood. He recruited a teacher, who was persuaded to go part time at her professional job, to volunteer time for these underprivileged children. Initially, parents did not appear particularly grateful, and complained about loss of income. When a quake destroyed the rundown building they were using, she quit in frustration. Parents, children and the community united to pool their meager resources to rebuild the school and call her back. The bonds built by 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 neighborhood of Rawalpindi.

A well off doctor decided that she should give thanks for all the comforts and luxury she has enjoyed. She took an early retirement and set up a free clinic in a nearby slum (Katchi Abadi). Eventually she gained the trust of the community, who asked her to expand her services to schooling. Though without experience in the area, she recruited volunteers from within and without the community 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 facing their plans. An initial attitude of helplessness generated by poverty had been  replaced by the lesson that dignity and worth derive from character and good conduct, real wealth is the contentment of the hearts, and strength derives from community.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 justly 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. With highest qualifications 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:  “ … if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind. (Quran 5:32)”

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 laborers, where they gather and wait patiently, for possible work. A third man purchased a building within a slum to set up a community civic center. This has gradually expanded to provide essential food grains at subsidized prices, occupational training to men and women, a medical clinic, and certain other social services. Recent research by the Pakistan Center 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 the spring when looking at forbidding dead and barren landscape after winter. Sharp eyes can still make out scattered buds, and flashes of colors in the distance, which herald the hope of the coming of the spring.

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