Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Charity begins at home

Ever since Bill Gates announced that he was going to reduce his involvement in Microsoft and focus on his foundation, Philanthropy has been on a high. Warren Buffet too is giving his money to charity. Both of these are pretty amazing, and yet an even more amazing story is about a grocer in New York, who quietly gave away millions without announcing it to the world. link.

Waldemar Kaminski, who quietly ran a food stand in Broadway Market for more than 50 years, has been revealed to be a self-made millionaire and philanthropist who anonymously gave millions to Buffalo charities and neighbors in need.

That reminds of a story from the Indian Epic - Mahabharata.

The story goes that The Emperor Yudhisthira, performed a great sacrifice and gave away all his wealth to charity. On that day a Mongoose came to the grounds and tried to roll on some of the grains that were scattered on the ground. This Mongoose had half its skin in gold and the other half normal. When people say what the Mongoose, they asked it why was it trying to roll on the ground and why was half its skin gold. The Mongoose told them the story behind the magic.

Years before, there was a famine in the land and it so happened that a family of four were starving. One day, the father managed to get a little rice from somewhere. He took it home and was about to share with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, when a stranger came by. The stranger was a traveller from far, and was hungry. According to Hindu tradition of treating guests like gods, each member of the family decided to give up their share of the food so that they can treat their guest well. The next day, all four died of starvation.

It so happened that the Mongoose came by their house afterwards and saw a bit of rice on the floor. It rolled on the rice and found that half its skin turned to gold. It then spent the rest of its time going from place to place trying to find a sacrifice that was equal to the family's. Since Yudhisthira's sacrifice did not turn the other half of its skin to gold, the Mongoose concluded that this was not as great a sacrifice as that made by the family.

Myopic view of
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