“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”
– Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
A couple of months ago, Mr Mudre who oversees our palliative care program came to me choked with emotion. Unsure of what had transpired, I was curious to know what had moved him so much. Working in palliative care is very emotionally demanding and our team members have to deal with pain, suffering, death and all the emotions that come along with them on a daily basis. Mudre explained to me how he had recently received a donation of Rs 5000 from one, Ms. Susheelamma (name changed to ensure privacy). She had personally come to our office and presented him with the money. The story behind this gesture of Susheelamma is something that will move and inspire any person.
Susheelamma, her husband and two children lived in a very small 100 sft house in Mysore city. Her husband, Suresh (name changed to ensure privacy) was working as a daily wage laborer in the city’s water supply department while she worked as a housekeeper in a local hotel. Her older daughter who was married and separated lived with her while her younger son had a job in large departmental store. Suresh who was a known diabetic and hypertensive was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. His illness forced Susheelamma to borrow heavily and the family sunk deep into debt. Our palliative care team started to provide support to this family and visited them every week. They knew that Suresh was soon going to die, and all that the team wanted was for him to die with dignity. Despite expensive treatment and surgery, Suresh succumbed to his terminal illness a year ago leaving the family emotionally and economically shattered.
Susheelamma slowly returned back to her job and continued to work as a house keeper. But she never could forget the love, attention, care and medical support that was given to her by SVYM’s palliative care team. All that she could think of now was the support that she had received in her times of distress. And she wanted to repay this debt in her own way. She felt that the best way would be to donate whatever she had now saved with great difficulty over ten months to the Palliative Care Program of SVYM. Her view was that this money could be used by the team for helping another family like hers. She felt that she owed it to society for having extended its helping hand when she needed it.
Any amount of dissuasion could not stop her from making this contribution. Though she had her debts to repay, she felt strongly that she had to do this. This was her way of remembering her husband too. People like Susheelamma are the ones that give us the inspiration to carry on against all odds. Poverty is indeed something difficult to comprehend unless one experiences it personally. In India, it is known that more than 70% of families who are just above the poverty line slip back into poverty due to an incidence of illness in their families. Despite claims of the nation’s GDP growing at 7.5%, there are still large number of families who are still excluded from mainstream economies. To complicate matters further, the public health system in our country is still not at a level where Universal health care can even be a remote possibility. Compounding this is the waning interest of governments of the day in social sector interventions. It is at times like this that Civil Society organizations can make a huge difference to the marginalized and deserving poor. And the work of such organizations cannot do without the support of well-meaning individuals in society. One doesn’t necessarily have to have a rich purse to share… all that it needs is the heart like that of Susheelamma who even in times of difficulty could think of others worse off than her. She is truly rich despite staying poor.