Threatened charity

By Paulo Coelho

Some time ago, my wife helped a Swiss tourist in Ipanema, who said he had been robbed by pickpockets. He spoke terrible Portuguese with a heavy accent, and claimed to be without a passport, money or place to stay.

My wife bought him lunch and gave him enough money to stay the night in a hotel while he contacted his embassy, and went off. Some days later, a Rio newspaper printed a story about this “Swiss tourist”, who was in fact nothing but a creative conman putting on an inexistent accent, and taking advantage of the good faith of people who love Rio and, eager to exorcise the negative image which – fairly or not – has become our city’s postcard.

Upon reading this news item, my wife’s only comment was: “well that won’t stop me from helping people.”

Her comment reminded me of the story of the wise man who, one afternoon, came to the town of Akbar. No one took much notice of his presence, and he was unable to interest the population in his teachings. After a time, he became an object of laughter and sarcasm among the townsfolk.

One day, as he wandered down Akbar’s main thoroughfare, a group of men and women began to insult him. Instead of pretending not to be aware of what was going on, the wise man went over to them and blessed them.

One of the men commented:

– Is it possible that, on top of everything else, this man here is deaf? We hurl abuse at you, and all you do is reply with beautiful words!

– Each of us can only offer the other that which is his – was the wise man’s answer.

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  1. Nicole says:

    I wish I could be as wise as the wise man, but learning a bit every day might bring me there one day :)

    And your wife is wonderful. Many people these days just ignore the ones that have much less.
    There are not many beggars in Kuwait. They simply get deported. The few that are here don’t want much. Just a tiny bit of money to go get some food and still, many people don’t even give that.

  2. Alexandra says:

    Unfotunately,I have had bad experiences in that account.I have helped people and I recieved instead only scorn and mockery, and there is worse. But,I have not lost completly my habit, still, I am not so opened as I was in past. Sometimes,I hardly recognise myself.These moments, when I see another case, make me notice that maybe I can reconsider everything and trust a little beat more people. Thank you.

  3. Debu says:

    It reminds the quote from Mahatma Gandhi,”An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Revenge never ends. Keep on doing good to others to make the world a better place than you have one.

  4. aditya says:

    Hi, Friends, paulo !

    i remember reading this ‘composition’ most probably on your blog only, earlier. Interesting to see what comments it elicited then !

    anyway, without diverting any further from topic, in the act of giving, your wife ‘lived’ what she wanted at that time, to help ! it should not matter if we are conned, once in a while ! it’s a matter of one’s ‘faith’. do u see world is predominantly ‘bad’ or ‘good’. swami vivekanda once said ‘don’t distrust a person 101st time, even if he has cheated you 100 times’ a thoughgt provocating statement !

    here in Inida ( or at least in teh circles i move around ) i have seen many a young people ( like me only, ;-)) say things like “I don’t give take tension, i give tension ” in our local langauge we have phrases like ‘tension mat le yaar’. to whomever I could communicate, i too narrated this story ( i had read it earlier), to give tension one would have to take tension. to seek revenge, one would have to allow himslef to be unbforgiven !

    Carmen larisa, u may find what vivekannada said not in accordance with what u’r stand on the issue is, but then u may appreciate the fcat that, as per u also it’s a matter of properly utilising your energy. suppose you have learnt to top into the inexhautible source, u may just go on forgiving and getting fooled again ! in the hope that…..

  5. Carmen Larisa says:

    I agree with your wife’s words and attitude because in general I do the same thing. I know I’m hopeless but I can’t help it :-) Just kidding! :-)
    There were many times when people used my good intentions and took advantage but I still have the hope that even though a person fools you, his consciousness understands and one day he or she will become a better person, having discernment to separate good from bad and still choose good.
    I love the power of forgiveness because it makes things easier and puts love even where that is missing.
    I am the kind of person who offers help whenever one is asking for it, no matter who and why is asking. It depends on the situation, though, as sometimes if I see someone trying to fool me again and again and again, I just don’t want to encourage that anymore and keep a distance. Energy should not be wasted with those who obstinately refuse it so many times but offered out of love to those who want and search for it!
    Life taught me a great lesson: never ever regret a good deed, even though when it seemed not to be acknowledged because it surely left a trace of love somewhere and to someone in need of it… :-)
    Many hugs and all the best in the whole world!

    Carmen Larisa

  6. Orhan says:

    This reminds me of another story. Our guy, while walking on the street, sees a poor man. He comes to him, telling his child is seriously sick, and needs an expensive operation urgently. He gives him the money he asks. Then as he leaves, some woman comes to our guy and says ‘are you crazy ? This is the local beggar. He’s here everyday, asking for money from everyone, using a different excuse each time”. Our guy, to her surprise, seems relieved. He says “I’m so glad his child isn’t in fact sick”

  7. azilda says:

    oups! is that a misgive instead of a mistake? You read my mind when i wrote the previous comment!
    I say give it anyway…you will rarely hit a conman and if you do …there is a lesson you needed to get.

  8. wanbliska says:

    Love is the most beautiful thing to share.
    A lover heart can’t stop giving, even if he’s sometimes upset. At last, what should provide himself to help someone that really needs on a certain day?
    Even sight gets sly, we could always be abused.

  9. Joan says:

    Haz el bien y no mires a quien… wise words to say that you make good not looking who you are doing this good.

    I feel like your wife, Paulo. If we fear that we can be cheated, we would do nothing for anybody.

    I keep the faith in people.

    (anyway, did you loose something else apart from some money?)


  10. Agnieszka says:

    When you dream,
    your heart smiles,
    when you smile,
    your face is happy,
    when you tell nice
    to a total stranger,
    God will do something
    you can’t
    So believe when I say
    it’s worth it,
    believe when I say
    you can
    do magic,
    the next time
    you’ll smile
    you’ll see
    will make You

    lots of love