Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Charity under threat

Author: Paulo Coelho

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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