Four short sentences

My father's wise message showed me a clear path with which to live my life by.

To my daughter,     
Rejoice with the happy.     
Sympathise with the sorrowful.     
Give help to the needy.     
And avoid the vicious.  
Your Father

These are the words my father wrote in my Autograph Book when I was 12. The sentences seemed simple enough, and their meaning clear too. But strangely, the message of these words appeared to change as the years passed.


The first sentence is quite simple. Of course, we want to be happy when something nice happens to someone else. But there are times when it is not that easy to follow. For one, it is difficult to be happy when we are not included in that select group of “lucky ones.” When good things happen to others, we have to put aside the unhappiness of the disappointment we are feeling.  

But it is worth wishing well for the other person. Sometimes people tell you about a happy event that happened to them and they follow it up, “I knew you would be happy for us. Thank you!” That makes us feel clean and genuinely happy, and quite often our own disappointment seems to be lessened. 

“Sympathise with the sorrowful.”  The one phrase we should never even think of is made of the lethal words, “Serves him/her right” or “He/she deserved it”. Horrid, pitiless words which corrode our heart and wound it further. When a person’s heart is bleeding, it is not the time to rub our own hands and gloat over their fate. Usually, most of us do not indulge in such nasty sentiments. But that alone is not enough. 

We should be positive and try to help the wounded one to the best of our ability. Our “sympathy” must be accompanied by soft comforting words and practical help. “There but for the grace of God go I,” is a strong thought which could put us on the true path of humility. Never kick a man when he is down. Stretch out your hand and help him rise.  

“Give help to the needy” is a straight forward axiom and most of us readily do it. “But not by giving only money,” my father had said. “Need comes in many forms and each should be helped if possible.”

Whether it is by being sympathetic, by helping a student cope with classwork, or in any other form. In the beautiful parable of ‘The Good Samaritan”, Jesus tells of the manner in which  a truly good man goes out of his way to help a fellow being, be he of another caste, creed or religion. Such narrow boundaries should not stop us from helping each other. In today’s times, this is a parable that should never be forgotten. 

 “And avoid the vicious” was the last, but certainly not the least, comment. I had asked my father what the word vicious meant. “Someone who gets pleasure in hurting others. If you see such a one coming towards you on the road, just cross the street and go onto the other side and go your way,” was the way my father had put it.

Full of missionary zeal, however, I had asked him if, instead of avoiding, I should help him change his ways. My father had smiled and said,

“You can try. But there are some in this world, unfortunately, who are resistant to change for the better. So it is wise to give them a wide berth and avoid being polluted.” And from this stand he would not budge! Maybe he had reason to be wary of such people. 

Four short sentences, but to me they showed so clear a path that I will always be grateful to my father.

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