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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