By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
He lives with his wife in an ordinary rental apartment in the city of San Francisco. He never wears branded clothing; his glasses are trusted and aged. His watches are functional and unglamorous. He does not have his own car, his primary means of transportation is the bus and the bag he uses for work is an old plastic bag.
He travels economy class but surprisingly, over the course of his life, he has donated more than 8 billion dollars [Rs. 5,6000 crore] for charitable causes !
Who is this man?
Well, his name is Chuck Feeney. He is frugal with himself but generous with others. He likes to make money but does not like to spend it on himself. Through his life time he has contributed 588 million to Cornell University; 125 million dollars to the University of California and 60 million to Stanford University.
He spent 1 billion dollars renovating and then building a further seven new Universities in Ireland. Incredibly, he also founded a Charity Fund aimed at providing cleft lip surgery for children in developing countries.
More incredibly still, Chuck never sought praise for his many contributions. He never revealed his name in association with each donation but asked for his donations to be made anonymously.
Towards the end of his life, Chuck’s selfless and astounding deeds were revealed by the media. When Chuck eventually did face the press and was asked the inevitable question of “Why did you choose to donate all of your wealth to charity? Chuck simply smiled and said, “People are born naked and finally die alone. No one can carry the wealth and reputation that he himself has been striving for, a lifetime. His final parting words were “because the corpse’s cover does not have a bag.”
Chuck, who made his fortune in the duty-free business, has been an inspiration for the rich of the world including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have announced to donate nearly 50 percent of their wealth to charity.
What impressed me on the above narration was the fact that Chuck never liked to boast of his charity unlike hundreds of donors, who tom-tom about their charity to the world. The fact that he was heading one of the world’s largest charity institutions was relatively unknown, till a business dispute brought it out. Till then I am sure he must have been laughed, ridiculed by hundreds of his own subordinates and friends.
Help done without any motive is real charity. Recently I read with an interest of a tea seller who gave nearly Rs. 3 lakh toward a cause — his 5 years of savings. In terms of value this would be higher than a hundred crore given by Ambani.
I would like to narrate a simple story on this subject.
A man was asked to paint a boat, he brought with him his paint and brushes and began to paint the boat a bright red, as the owner had asked him. While painting, he noticed that there was a small hole in the hull, and he quietly repaired it. When he finished painting, he received his money and left.
The next day the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a nice cheque, much higher than the painting payment. The painter was surprised and said, “Sir, you have already paid me for the job.”
The owner replied: “This is not for the painting but for the repairing the hole in the hull.”
“But sir, it was such a small job and not worth the money you are now paying me.”
The owner said, “My dear friend. Let me explain. When I asked you to paint the boat, I forgot about the hole in the hull. I should have asked a carpenter to come and repair it. When the boat dried up, my children took the boat, without informing me on a fishing trip. Since I was not at home I could not inform them about the hole. When I returned and noticed that the boat had been taken away. I was desperate since I knew that the boat had a hole. Imagine my relief when I saw my children return safely.”
“When I checked the boat I saw that the hole had been repaired. You are a painter and not a carpenter but in spite of that you went out of your way to do that extra work and not mention it to me too. All my money cannot repay your selfless service.”
Do you now see the similarity between Chuck and the poor painter? Help without any expectation. So, no matter who, when or how, just continue to help, sustain, wipe tears, listen attentively and carefully repair all the so-called “leaks” you find. You might have repaired several boat leaks all along the way of several people without even realising how many lives you have saved.
Everyone cannot be a Chuck Keeney but one can definitely try to help in whichever way one can. The world will be a better place to live. Let this be your New Year Resolution for 2019.