Facing our debts

Facing our debts

A man saw his elderly neighbour hard at work in his garden. “What are you planting?” he asked. “Mango seeds,” came the reply. “Do you expect to eat the fruit in your life-time?” he questioned again, to which the man smiled and said: “It occurred to me the other day that all my life I have been eating the fruit of trees that someone else planted. So I decided to plant some myself, so that in the future others may know the same joy that I have known. This is my way of expressing gratitude to those who have contributed to my enjoyment of life.”

I wonder how many of us care to think on the same lines. However self-reliant and hard-working we may be, every one of us is a debtor to a multitude of people. First we are indebted to our parents who brought us into this world and spent love, effort and time into making us what we are. We owe a debt of gratitude too to our teachers who helped us master the arts of reading, writing and thinking. We owe much too to those who guided us on to the right path of living. Countless in number are those who labour hard to make our lives more comfortable, smoother and more meaningful – the newsboy, the milkman, the press-reporters, doctors, nurses, postmen, grocers. The list is almost endless. How miserable existence would be without their ungrudging service! Yet, rarely do we pause to reflect that we constantly need others to help us, to care and to support us in times of both happiness and sorrow. It is no accident that solitary confinement is one of the harshest punishments that can be inflicted on a wrong-doer.

Those who recognize the individual’s dependence on others will also see the message that comes with it. We need to express our gratitude to those who make our lives worth living. But how do we do this? Mere words of gratitude are not enough. We need to do our own duties with sincerity and honesty. Doing less than that is a disservice to humanity. To lie, to cheat and to short-change others materially or in terms of service is a transgression of the worst kind.

‘A hundred times every day, I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labours of other men living and dead and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure that I have received.’ These memorable and beautiful words came from Albert Einstein, the world-renowned scientist whose entire life was devoted to the betterment of humankind. What better reminder of the debts we owe others than this that comes from one who lived his ideals with humility and sincerity?

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