From the work in progress Life: A Book About Learning to Live
By Jim Rosemergy
A need is a gift. When will I receive it?
A westerner had just arrived in India. He stood before Mother Teresa, the founder of the Sisters of Charity, and offered his services. He said that he came to help the poor and untouchables of India. Mother Teresa asked him, “Are there no poor people where you live?” People in need are everywhere. It is difficult to comprehend that millions of people are at risk, but they are. They do not have basic sanitation, nutritious food, or medical services. Seventeen million people will die of malnutrition related problems this year. It appears that these children and countless adults have nothing. Each of them has the potential to contribute to the common good, but conventional wisdom says they offer little to the world. They are not givers; they take from those who have.
Have you ever experienced an elation so great that it caused you to tremble? Years ago I was on vacation at the beach, and it was raining, so my family and I went to a shopping area. I was browsing in the sporting goods department of a store, when I noticed a young boy who was buying a soccer ball. It seemed that he did not have enough money to complete the purchase. Perhaps he had forgotten the tax or the price of the ball had increased since he first saw it. I reached into my pocket, took a dollar, and gave it to the clerk, so she could complete the transaction for the boy. I gave one dollar, but as I released it from my hand, I was trembling with excitement. I continued my browsing and after the boy got his soccer ball, he ran by me and simply said, “Thanks,” and he was gone.
We don’t experience elation enough. Some of the most powerful feelings a human being can experience are when he or she gratefully receives a need and gives with no thought of return. A boundless joy and happiness confirm that we have just experienced life and are learning to live. It is true, the poor of the world have needs, but how long will it be before we realize that their needs are gifts offered to us? The poor may lack sanitation, food, and medical services, but they have a gift to give. Their gift is their need. The poor are with us because we have failed to accept their gift. They need what we call the necessities of life, but what is most necessary in life is giving and receiving. The poor are willing to receive our help, but are we willing to receive their gift—their need?
I was amazed by my feeling, and to this day I wonder if the boy was really what he appeared to be. Maybe he was an angel teaching me something about need and giving and receiving. I used to think that the boy was the recipient of my gift, but I now know I first had to receive his gift. Receiving the boy’s gift was the key to the elation I felt.