It is a story that is over a more than hundred years old but the lessons are still relevant today. The year was 1892, the place: Stanford University. An eighteen year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea.
A friend and he decided to host a concert on campus to raise money for their education. They reached out to pianist Ignacy J. Paderewski, who was quite a superstar then. Paderewski’s manager demanded a guaranteed fee of 2000 dollars for the piano recital. They agreed. A deal was struck. And the boys began to work to make the concert a success.
The big day arrived. Paderewski, performed at Stanford. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only 1600 dollars. Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire 1600 dollars, plus a cheque for the balance 400 dollars. They promised to honour the cheque as soon as they could. ‘No way!’ said Paderewski. This is just not acceptable!’ he tore up the cheque, returned the cash and told the two boys, ‘here is the 1600 dollars. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees. You can just give me whatever is left!’ the boys were surprised and overjoyed. They thanked him a lot.
It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked o Paderewski as someone special.
He would have been within his rights to demand his ‘guaranteed money’. Moreover, why should he help two people he did not even know?
We all come across such situations in our lives. Times when other people need our help. Most of us only think, if I help them, what will happen to me?’ the truly great people think, ‘ if I don’t help them what will happen to them?’. Most of us only think of ourself, the loss we might incur, the trouble we might have to go through and the sacrifice we need to make. The true greats don’t think of themselves. They think of the difference their actions could make to other people, and that’s what drives their actions.
They help not because someone else is watching, or because it will look good when the world finds out. They don’t do it expecting something in return. They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.
It may not surprise you to know that Paderewski went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately, when the world war began, Poland was ravaged. There were over one and a half million people starving in his country, and there was no money to feed them. Paderewski did not know where to turn for help.
He reached out to the United States Food and Relief Administration for help. Its head was a man called Herbert Hoover, who later became the US president. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tonnes of foodgrains to feed the starving polish people. A big calamity was averted. A relieved Paderewski decided to meet Hoover and thank him in person.
When Paderewski began to express his gratitude to Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, ‘you should not be thanking me, Mr. Prime Minister! You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college in the U.S. I was one of them.
Do something selfless today! Help someone!! Just do it without expecting anything, anything in return. The world is a wonderful place. What goes around, usually comes around.
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