Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Power Of A Trashed Pencil

--by keymaker, posted Dec 5, 2009

She was a janitor at a school in India.   Her husband died soon after her marriage, she didn't have any family in the area.  She struggled with the responsibility of raising her kids.  For the last twenty years, she's continued to sweep classrooms at local schools.

One day, though, she had a radical idea:  I want to give.  It was followed-up by a reasonable yet confusing thought:  But what can I possibly give?

When she narrated her desire to a friend, he told her a story.  "Gandhi used to write many letters.  One day, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, a famous Indian author, saw him writing with a tiny pencil and immediately offered Gandhi a bigger pencil from his pocket.  Gandhi politely said that he didn't need it.  The next day, he saw Gandhi scrambling to find his pencil and Kakasaheb again offered him a pencil saying, 'Your pencil was so small anyway.'  Gandhi gently replied, 'But a child had given me that pencil.'  And he carried on the search for that small pencil."

Sharing this story, he tells this sweeper woman: "You sweep schools everyday.  And so, you must see all kinds of small pencils that kids throw away.  Why don't you collect those and I'll give them to little kids who can't afford pencils and teach them how to write and draw."  She liked that idea.  In addition to pencils, she even collected erasers, sharpners, and a few miscellaneous oddities.  And every so often, when her bag gets full, she hands it off to her friend to give away to the needy.

That was her ritual.

When she found out that I was in town (I'm good friends with her kids), she insisted that I come over for a meal.  Due to my hectic set of committments, I wasn't able to go over for a meal but told her that I'd definitely join her for some snacks.  So I went for breakfast one day, with my friend who originally shared Gandhi's story with her.  She had cooked up a simple feast of love, which we thoroughly enjoyed!  We gave her a shawl, explaining that someone had gifted it to us the night before and we couldn't really use it.  And as we were leaving, she handed us a pink, almost ripped, and heavy plastic bag.

Confused, I opened up that plastic bag, and saw those small pencil, erasers and sharpeners.


It's hard to stay balanced, in the presence of something so valuable.  In the next hour, I had to address a couple hundred people, and shared the story of a sweeper woman.  As I opened up that pink plastic bag and held a fistful of these small pencils and erasers, it was hard for even the emcee to hold back the tears!  I left the bag out for people to keep a material token of this sweeper woman's lesson -- it matters not what you give, but the amount of love you put into that giving.  Everything, including the ripped plastic bag, was gone before I could take a second look.

The humble offering had a certain power that simply can't be bought.  I felt it, everyone felt it.

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Readers Comments

luv4all wrote: Soooo b'ful n inspiring. Brought tears in my eyes. I can feel the need of giving by those who are more often at receiving end for materials and daily needs. Shall help someone at receiving end to give and feel good :)
kuory wrote: I like this stroy.

Thank for your share.

Kaviraj wrote: Feeling of giving some thing to some one who needs is great. When we want to give, we could always find some thing to give. A thing which is useless for some one may be of great use to other person.

Principled people are the heart and soul of our lives together. Church leader john wesley simplifies it for us. In regards to what is right and wrong, he says simply this:

"do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can. "
I think those are principles i want to live by.

Thanks a lot for posting this instructive story.

irishgirl wrote: It seems that the simplest gestures and gifts are the ones that sometimes contain the most love. Thanks for this story.
ema wrote: If only we all could find something to give. The world woulb be a nicer place. In december i visited my granny`s brother in malawi. I didnt have much to give only used clothes and shoes. I could see the joy on little kids faces. They liked to go to school were they normally wouldnt.
Ana wrote: I teach art and i find zillions of pencils in my class, and have donated to children who can't afford to buy any pencils. I teach the kids not to throw them away.
smileaday wrote: Very touching, i'm not throwing a pencile away ever again!
sethi wrote: Very touching and totally humbled at the women's power of creation. God bless her.
Daniel wrote: Made a tear in my eye; good story
kartick wrote: Very touching indeed.

Thank you for sharing it with us keymaker :)

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