Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! For over 20 years, my mother had a column in a local newspaper in Newington, Connecticut. It was called “Footprints, Heartbeats, and Dreams.” During her time with the paper, she wrote over 550 short stories and columns of her observations and insights. This is the tenth year anniversary of her passing, I thought I’d continue the tradition. Below is a simple short story for the Christmas holidays.
Reaping What We Sow
Prakash was a humble fruit seller who lived in a small village in Sri Lanka. As a boy, he was very shy and tended to stay by himself. But he was also a friend to all who he met – never once uttering a single bad word against anyone.
Each day, he’d go to the wholesale market early in the morning to get two baskets of fruit. But unlike the rest of the vendors, he always packed his baskets to a point where they were completely overflowing. Once filled, he’d place a stick on either side of the faded brown basket handles and throw it over his shoulder. He’d then head oﬀ into the rural areas to spend the entire day selling whatever he could to the local villagers. This is how he made his living.
Because he always bought so much extra fruit each day, as he walked from place to place along the village trails, he often lost dozens of them along the way. The other vendors who saw this happen used to laugh and joke about this. With such full baskets, they thought he was either trying to show oﬀ or that he was just plain stupid. Realizing that with each piece lost his proﬁt was diminished, they’d teased him incessantly about being a terrible salesman. But Prakash never cared – he would often just smile and shrug oﬀ the insults. That was just his nature.
Despite his losses, he was one of the few vendors who always came back with a completely empty basket. Because of his honesty and gentle temperament, most people liked to buy fruits from him rather than others. This created a fair amount of jealousy among the other vendors who were never quite as successful.
What the other vendors never knew was that Prakash grew up in a makeshift home with dirt floors that was shabbier than the other homes in his village. His father died when he was 8 and left his mother destitute. When he was growing up, he barely had one full meal a day. To stay soft hearted, he often remembered how it felt to go hungry himself and out of gratefulness for having more prosperity at this point in his life, he had a habit of “accidentally” dropping fruit here and there when passing by a household that was having money trouble or when they were having hard times in between harvest. This practice went on for years. Because he was a very compassionate person, he deeply cared about people. Even though most of these villagers were strangers to him, this didn’t matter. He went out of his way to help anyone and everyone in need. It was just his way.
Most people – even if they are very poor – are also very proud, he didn’t give out handouts. His approach allowed Prakash to give them something, without the people feeling bad about it.
For years, he gave nearly a quarter of his proﬁt away to the poor. Being humble by nature, he did it secretly – never once expecting to be thanked for this service. Knowing that he was helping others brought its own personal reward.
One day, things changed for the worse. Prakash’s wife became very, very ill. After visiting a doctor at the hospital in the main town, he was told that if she didn’t have a major operation immediately, she’d probably not survive through the night. Not knowing who else to turn to, Prakash went to the bazaar to ask the other vendors if he could borrow some money from them. But after hearing his plea for help, they all laughed out loud at him.
‘Why would anyone give money to you?’ asked one of the fruit sellers.
‘Every day you buy more than you can carry and then you end up wasting half of it. If you weren’t so stupid, maybe you’d have some extra money in your pocket. It is not our fault you don’t have any money. You brought this on yourself.’
‘Are you trying to show off to us with those full baskets?’ asked another person with contempt.
‘Is that why you always get so much? It serves you right that you are now in this ﬁx. Perhaps next time you won’t be so foolish. If we lend you any money, we will never get it back. You are a terrible businessman. I’m not risking any of my money on the likes of you.’
Out of spite, these statements were made in front of many local people – the other vendors went out of their way to humiliate this poor soul.
After not receiving the money he needed, Prakash reluctantly turned to go home. He walked with his head lowered – he was a completely defeated man. As always, he took the winding path that led through the maze of rice ﬁelds that lined the high hills. But there was something very strange going on that afternoon – when he looked behind, he noticed that there were several people who seemed to be walking in the same direction. Most days he found himself walking this path alone. He assumed there must be a big event somewhere – perhaps a marriage or a funeral. As he continued on his way, this group gradually expanded in size, with one or two more people joining the procession every few minutes. They included people of all ages – young and old and in between.
Hoping to avoid contact with anyone on that evening, he hastened his pace to put some distance between him and them. When he finally arrived home, he quickly entered the house and closed the door to keep the outside world at bay.
He went up to his wife, kneeled beside her bed and began to cry. For years he had given so much to so many, not once thinking of his own family’s security. Now, having saved nothing, he realized that he was about to lose the one person who meant everything to him – his beloved wife.
At that moment, as she was stroking his head to comfort him, there was a slight knock on the front door. At ﬁrst Prakash ignored it; not wanting to see anyone. But as it grew louder, he ﬁnally felt compelled to see who it was.
After opening the door, he was surprised to ﬁnd that there was a great crowd of people standing in a large circle in front of his house. As he looked into their eyes, he recognized many of them – they were people from the many villages he had sold his fruit to over the years. Across their faces, he could read a united expression of warmth and aﬀection.
This assembly confused him. ‘Why are they here?’ he asked himself. ‘What do they want of me?’
But despite his initial confusion, he couldn’t help but feel that the air outside below the stars that evening was ﬁlled with hope and love and understanding.
Without uttering a single word, an old woman in front of the crowd knelt in front of him and placed a handful of small rupee notes on the ground beside his feet. She then oﬀered a grand smile that revealed her two remaining teeth. Her hand, having acquired a slight shake from years gone by, reached out and squeezed Prakash’s arm as a gesture of sincere aﬀection. While the amount given wasn’t very much – it was more than she had to oﬀer.
When she was done, she struggled to her feet, walked away and the next person behind her came forward and did the same thing.
These were the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of those he had helped over the years. When word got out about Prakash’s plight and the way he was treated in the bazaar, these people all spontaneously came together to give whatever they could to help him. With the money collected that day, he was able to bring his wife in for the operation. After that, she lived for another twenty years.
While Prakash had secretly given to these people, everyone always knew what Prakash was doing. Few kindnesses in this life of ours ever go unnoticed.
When it was his time of need, when he was the one in trouble, they came and did the same for him.
What we put into life always comes back to us. If we do good things, good will follow. If we do bad things, this will always catch up with us. It is one of God’s universal truths, because it is impossible to “out-give” God. “Give and it shall be given unto you.” (Luke 6:38)