Stories of Kindness from Around the World

In Debt To Strangers

--by singlestep, posted Mar 9, 2008

V.P. Menon was a significant political figure in India during its struggles for independence from Britain.

Eldest son of twelve children, he quit school at thirteen and worked as a laborer, coal miner, factory hand, merchant, and schoolteacher. He talked his way into a job as a clerk in the Indian administration, and his rise was meteoric-- largely because of his integrity and brilliant skills in working with both Indian and British officials in a productive way. (...)

Two characteristics stood out as particularly memorable -- a kind of aloof, impersonal efficiency, and a reputation for personal charity. His daughter explained the background of this latter trait after he died. When Menon arrived in Delhi to seek a job in government, all his possessions, including his money and I.D., were stolen at the railroad station. He would have to return home on foot, defeated. In desperation he turned to an elderly Sikh, explained his troubles and asked for a temporary loan of fifteen rupees to tide him over until he could get a job. The Sikh gave him the money. When Menon asked for his address so that he could repay the man, the Sikh said that Menon owed the debt to any stranger who came to him in need, as long as he lived. The help came from a stranger and was to be repaid to a stranger.

Menon never forgot that debt, neither the gift of trust nor the fifteen rupees. His daughter said that the day before Menon died, a beggar came to the family home in Bangalore asking for help to buy new sandals, for his feet were covered with sores. Menon asked his daughter to take fifteen rupees out of his wallet to give to the man. It was Menon's last conscious act.

This story was told to me by a man whose name I do not know, he was standing beside me in the Bombay airport at the left-baggage counter, I had come to reclaim my bags and had no Indian currency left. The agent would not take a traveler's check, and I was uncertain about getting my luggage and making my plane. The man paid my claim-check fee -- about eighty cents -- and told me the story as a way of refusing my attempt to figure out how to repay him. His father had been Menon's assistant and had learned Menon's charitable ways and passed them on to his son, The son had continued the tradition of seeing himself in debt to strangers, whenever, however.

From a nameless Sikh to an Indian civil servant to his assistant to his son to me, a white foreigner in a moment of frustrating inconvenience. The gift was not large as money goes, and my need was not great, but the spirit of the gift is beyond price and leaves me blessed and in debt.

--From: " All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten " by Robert Fulghum
6251 Reads

Readers Comments

sethi wrote: It is truly moving and inspiring. Thank you universe for such creations.The more one gives in life, the more one gets back. I take on this responsibility of giving to who so ever it may be.
tjp07 wrote: Thank you for the story. I encountered such need from a stranger. I never thought of that way to repay. I'll do so more as from now.
kindness wrote: Amazing,how its going around.hope lot of us would start doing this.God Bless
Phoenyx wrote: True service to another is what makes the world a place worth living in. If more people conducted their lives this way, the world would be a much kinder place to live. Thank you for giving us all something to strive for.
lovebug wrote: I read your story, it has been around a long time. I also read the comments and want to thank Merv for asking the right question. How will we ever start a war this way? God Bless the whole world, each in their own place.
merv wrote: What a terrible thing! How will we ever start a war this way?

:^) <--- tongue firmly in cheek!

Thanks Singlestep! I owe you a hug!

falsemonkeypuzzl wrote: I echo anonimus's comment. Each time this story is told and another picks up this debt as their (our) own, the influence of that original kindness speads out - just as a ripple gets bigger and bigger the farther it moves from the source which started it. Today, I eagerly take on this debt!
anonimus wrote: Dear singlestep, you have made my day with your wonderful story.Dear Friends it is upon us to change the ending of this story to read "From a nameless Sikh to an Indian civil servant to his assistant to his son to me,To us and the entire world" by continuing with these acts of charity...GOD bless and thanks for sharing
warmth wrote: excellent. I hope i can try and do such a thing as well. Thank u so much for posting this out of the world experience here.
God Bless u :)
Love and HUgs
cinnamonhead wrote: Thanks so much for sharing, what a great lesson that we can learn from it. I will share with others.

Add A Comment