Charity under threat

By Paulo Coelho

Some time ago, my wife went to the aid of a Swiss tourist in Ipanema, who claimed that he had been robbed by some street children. Speaking appalling Portuguese in a thick foreign accent, he said that he had been left without his passport, without any money and with nowhere to sleep.
My wife bought him lunch, gave him enough cash to pay for a hotel room for the night while he got in touch with his embassy, and then left. Days later, a Rio newspaper reported that this ‘Swiss tourist’ was, in fact, an inventive con-artist who put on an accent and abused the good faith of those of us who love Rio and want to undo the negative image – justified or not – which has become our postcard.
When she read the article, my wife simply said: ‘Well, that’s not going to stop me helping anyone.’
Her remark reminded me of the story of a wise man who moved to the city of Akbar. No one took much notice of him, and his teachings were not taken up by the populace. After a time, he became the object of their mockery and their ironic comments.
One day, while he was walking down the main street in Akbar, a group of men and women began insulting him. Instead of pretending that he had not noticed, the wise man turned to them and blessed them.
One of the men said:
‘Are you deaf too? We called you the foulest of names and yet you respond with sweet words!’
‘We can each of us only offer what we have,’ came the wise man’s reply.

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  1. Chus says:

    I like to help as much as I can and that has given me problems sometimes. When that happens, people around me say that I’m stupid because I never learn. I don’t care so much about it. You never know whether is true or not, but the feeling of doing something for another person, even if it results to be untrue, is something great.

    What you give is what you get, nothing material most of the times, you don’t expect that neither. It’s the satisfaction of having done something that you feel is right.

  2. We are always so worried about what other people are doing rather than living by our own principles. This is a beautiful story and a great reminder!

    You are a wonderful storyteller, Paulo! Thank you! :)

  3. Yajna says:

    Dearest Paulo and friends,

    I reallyed enjoyed this story.. It made me smile alot. :) You know there are many people out there that are frauds, they are con-artists that thrive of other people. Although this may be, we must also remember that there are also people out there that genuinely are in need. We should not just judge and leave the needy just because part of them are criminals. I admire your wife, and truthfully i do the same- most of the time i don’t even know if i’m being conned or not, nor do i care because i know my intentions are good, and i am who i am.

    Thank you for being

  4. A.V.C. says:

    I guess that one should only give whenever one feels that it is the right thing to do, even considering the risk of being used or fooled despite having used a sensible portion of reason and intuition.

    If you cannot run that risk, you are not giving unconditionally.

    A healthy reminder!

  5. Tania says:

    Yes we can only offer what we have, be it in prayers or just a donation , or time if one wanted to be a missionary worker someday,but Other people who are in the position to make a difference use their voice for good causes,to raise awareness ,I know a lot of them give !!!
    if what we give makes us feel good and opens our hearts and inspires us be more creative then Give your all to it ,it shouldn’t stop you ..look what Bob Geldolf first did for Aide.
    Blessings Tania

  6. Esteban says:

    having grown up in miami i’ve had a number of situations like this. usually can see who’s a fraud by offering help in all ways except monetary – especially if you offer a ride to report it at a police station.. if they won’t accept the help then u know they just to get money and are lying.

  7. Kathleen says:

    What those people had to offer was insults, what the humble man had to offer was blessings.

    Its times like those where people are truly exposed for what they are on the inside.

    Kathleen xx

  8. Kathleen says:

    Wow. That story was beautiful and very wise.

    I’m also one of those people who constantly gets told that I’m being a sucker for giving money etc. but then I’ll walk away worrying and worrying so I do it for myself lol

    Kathleen xx

  9. Evespring says:

    This is one of my favorite stories!! I’ve been so tired the last couple of days due to work and friend-visitors, and seeing this brightens my day :) I like how you create a dialogue all on your own ;)

    We can each of us only offer what we have…

    Although that makes you wonder, doesn’t it, if when people offer up “bad” like stealing or sexual assault or obesity, if that is what they only have.

    I know! It’s what they have at the point of time. What they did not discover is the rest of the strengths and beauties they possess but which they never knew about… “or sth like that”, as my imaginary friend would say.

  10. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo, friends,

    Some people say that we shouldn’t help people on the street because they are usually liars.
    Maybe, sometimes.
    But I agree with Your wife Paulo, I would do it anyway, because we never know.
    When I see someone in need , and if I can, I help, though sometimes I feel great sadness that I cannot do more.

    When we give what’s best in us to others – it’s like opening the door to love.

    I believe that:
    When you give – you receive even more.

    I know that not everybody can be Mother Theresa or Saint Francis, but we should try with all our hearts to always notice:
    sadness, hunger, fear, loneliness,
    or even one tear, and give this someone at least a little bit of sunshine.

    I am and I hope I always will be.