There are certain instances when you see a value you hold dear being perfectly personified. In a recent act of kindness that captured the hearts and attention of many across the globe, a New York City policeman bought a homeless man a pair of shoes on a cold night – this was captured by a passer-by and when uploaded on Facebook it attracted more than 400,000 likes.
The fact that this policeman spent around $100 dollars on an absolute stranger out of the kindness of his heart is a beautiful, inspiring act; however it is not the part of this story that captured my heart. What struck me was the policeman kneeling down beside the homeless man when he gave him the shoes. This simple act of humility reminded me of an incident from the life of Hussain.
In Medina, current day Saudi Arabia, there was an area called the ‘suffa’, or the ‘poor platform’. Once a few men were sat there eating and invited Hussain to join them. Although he was the grandson of one of the most prestigious men in Arabia he went and sat with them and took part in their meal, not seeing himself as being above them, or their place of sitting as below him. Then he invited them to his house and he and his wife Rubab gifted them with all the money they had saved. There is nothing obviously magnificent about this story on the surface, no obviously grand gesture on the part of Hussain but its beauty is in the simplicity of Hussain’s act, simply sitting and eating with those he bestowed an act of charity upon.
Many of us give some sort of charity – whether online, added on to a restaurant bill or in the form of loose change handed to a homeless person in our cities – but not many of us interact with those we give charity to. Many people don’t like the thought of being given ‘charity’ and may find the idea of being a receiver of ‘charity’ offensive, quite often because of the way the charity is given. For example, how many of us drop loose change in front of a homeless person without even bothering to make eye contact with them, let alone smile at them or kneel down as we give them the money? I’m sure this isn’t intentional on the part of those giving charity, none the less most of us do it without a second thought.
In my opinion the most beautiful aspect about the story of the NYC policeman isn’t his act of charity, but his humility whist carrying out that act. Similarly when I look at the acts of charity from Hussain’s life it isn’t just what Hussain gave as charity that strikes me, it is the way he would give charity, with a humility we can all aspire to. In truth, I wouldn’t expect anything less from the man whose mother – although the daughter of the once-richest woman in Arabia – had such humility that she would grind wheat for her neighbours to the extent her hands would bleed. I also wouldn’t expect anything different from the son of the man who each night would personally feed and bathe a leprous man and take such good care of him that when the man heard of his death, he too died almost immediately. Such humility in our world is quite rare but it is a value to which we can all hold dear and aspire.