While emak and I were having lunch today, I noticed TV3 1.30pm Buletin was airing the 'Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah' for 2008. Apparently, Tan Sri Syed Mukhtar Bukhary was named as the recipient of the award for this year. My heartiest congratulations to the man as I've heard from quite a number of people that Tan Sri is a philanthropist and deserving of the award. I have no qualms there at all. However, it reminded me of a story I read as a young boy of 10, and if I remember it well, is with regards to a remote village somewhere in either China or Taiwan. Though names of the characters and even places are completely forgotten now, the gist is not.
In a place where modern medical science was still viewed suspiciously and even thought to be a spawn of witchcraft, many children and elderlies succumbed to various ailments and many die to lack of medical treatment. The Village Elders, held a meeting and realise the need to build a hospital catering to the village need. But realising on the matter and the want to build can be 2 different things altogether as the huge majority of the people there are poor and live on day to day sustenance. Though there were several well-off families, and a particularly rich man, this was a community project and needs the contribution of everyone, be it large or small. Thus, the Village Elders later announced of their intention to collect funds from everyone for the purpose of this hospital. This, was received well by the people of the village.
As the VE went around each house, the contributions they received began to grow. Many gave without thought, while few were calculative either to the use of the fund or the benefit it would bring. Still, they gave. Despite collecting a large amount, the VE found it still insufficient and continued on collecting until only 2 houses remain.
They went to the first of the last 2 house which belongs to the richest man in the village and were greeted kindly. When asked by the rich man on the amount collected, the VE said it was still insufficient and needed at least double of what they already have. The VE reply had the rich man thinking a long while and then asking "What or after who will this hospital be named?"
The VE were stunned by the question which in the very first place, had never crossed their minds. Then the eldest of the VE replied "We will name the hospital after the best donor," to which the rich man gave the amount needed without further thoughts. Jubilated by the generous act of the rich man, the VE made their way back to the Town Hall. But on their way there, they pass by the only house which they have yet to collect donation from.
Looking at the condition of the house, the VE initially thought of not asking any. But then as it is a community project, they decided it should involve the occupants as well. The head of the poor family greeted the VE with a thin smile. As soon as he was told by the VE of their intention, he immediately the rickety wooden steps up to his house and disappeared behind the thin walls made of flimsy plywood. The poor man reappeared a short while later and without further question gave them an old leather bag containing his life savings. Without a word, he then turn back to his task of chopping firewood meant to be sold later.
Back at the Town Hall, the VE began recounting their collection and were very happy to note that it in fact, had exceeded the amount needed. Then they were reminded of the donation by the poor man in the leather bag and opened it only to find the amount contained within was a mere fraction when compared to the rich man. Yet, this was the poor man's life saving and he gave from his heart. The VE felt humbled and decided to include it to the collection.
The building of the hospital did not take long as it was small 2storey building suffice for the village need. And when it was completed, the whole town gathered for the official opening ceremony. The rich man, befitting as the main contributor, was invited as the Guest-of-Honour, and was seated on the dais together with the VE. When the time came to unveil the name of the hospital, the rich man was given the honour. And he stood proudly beside the unveiled name as the villagers, including the poor man, gathered around. And when the shoving and the noise died down, the rich man pulled the small curtain to unveil...the poor man's name.
The Village Elders, it seems, had not lied about naming the hospital after the best donor. For in their eyes, the poor man had given his best - his entire life savings - towards the success of building a hospital for the village. His unselfish act had humbled the VE, and in their eyes, he was the best donor.
Now, before anyone even think that this story have anything to do with Tan Sri Syed Mukhtar, know that it does not. As mentioned earlier, I was reminded of this story when I saw the news and thought of sharing it. Perhaps I should have written about Saidina Ali r.a. and the mango fruit. But it is a story I believe most Muslims are well aware of. Both stories anyhow, are with regards to the unselfish deeds of individuals towards their society, no matter how small one may think of them otherwise. And perhaps that very act of looking down on a contribution by others is one of the flaws of our society today; both the poor and the rich have their roles to play.