One True Hero

By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Lahore–I have made this realization in the recent years that the less fortunate population of the world is becoming more and more comfortable with asking for money rather then help. What do I mean by that? Well it’s ok to ask for help in the sense that if one says please keep a lookout for job opportunities for me. Or, could you please talk to so and so to help me get some work. And then there is another way of asking for help in which one does not ask for a permanent solution but rather the person wants to be given money or whatever material that they might need. This kind of asking for help comes in the category of begging. Yes, most of us are very familiar with those kinds of people. Some of us even have them working in our homes and of course they are everywhere on the streets these days. It seems that these days on the streets, even those individuals who are selling something, are looking to receive free money. However, it would not be fair to say that all of the people out there are the same. While it would be fair to say that most of them are same; I had an experience that made me realize that there are honest people in this world. This realization presented its self as a very heartwarming story.
Me and my friend were driving in my car when a man came selling newspapers. He looked as though he was in his early 20s. He also seemed a little mentally slow. My friend rolled down the window and gave him some money. He pulled out a newspaper to give to her in return but my friend told him that she doesn’t want the paper. At that exact moment the traffic light turned green and the car started to speed up. The young man hurriedly threw the newspaper in through the window anyway. My friend and I were very impressed by his dignity and his effort to keep to being an honest worker. After that every time we drove by that intersection we tried to give him some money but always took a newspaper in return because otherwise he would refuse to take the money. And if we ever gave him more then the newspaper was worth he would dig in his pocket for change to return but we always drove off right at that moment because if we had stayed we knew he would not listen when we told him not to give us the change back.

This young man had intrigued me so much that I decided to stop one day and ask him who he was and how he got to do what he was doing. This 20 year old boy is the youngest of his siblings that include 3 older brothers and two older sisters. According to him he is the only one earning in his family. I asked him why that is he said that his oldest brother is a drug addict because of which he cannot work any more. The other brothers are looking for jobs but are not able to find work. I asked him how he found work and he explained that he got lucky. He said that one of his brothers who is looking for a job right now is married and has three kids. This young man is also supporting them along with his mother and sisters. He said that he didn’t know where his father was. When I probed he told me that their father left some years back and never came back. No one knows where he is and why he left. He thinks that his father was also a drug addict, and couldn’t support a big family with his drug habit so he disappeared.

His speech was not very clear. He seemed a little spaced out and lost. Also by the looks it was obvious to see that he is not mentally normal. He seemed a little slow as well. While talking to him I realized that he was probably the most innocent of his family and was being made to work while others rested. I asked him what his mother was like and he told me that she is nice but she beats him a lot. I was not expecting to hear that. I was actually expecting to hear him say that she is appreciative of the fact that he is the only one making some honest money. I asked him why she beats him and he said, “Because I do things that deserve this kind of beating.”

This boy is unique not because he is working as a newspaper seller, in fact he is unique because he has the responsibility of a huge family on him and he is tackling this responsibility without complaining and with honesty. He looks malnutrition. His clothes are old and raggedy. His brown hair and white skin is raddled with dirt and the grim of the entire day…He is also very slow in speaking and in comprehending information. Also his over simplistic view of life shows that he is not completely in tune with the realities of life. Of course on some level it would be naïve of us to assume that a person who works hard every day to feed his extended family is not facing the realities of the world. However, it looks as though he is not facing these things because he realizes that this is what he wants to do with his life. In fact he is doing it because he has been told that this is what he should to be doing.

So what is the bottom line? He is an honest and hard working young man. Why is he like this? I know, it sounds like a very strange question since that is how we should all be and this is the way to be. Nevertheless most people around us are not that honest. Most of the time no one selling stuff on the streets minds getting a few extra bucks. This man was different because he had not learned from the street. He has been on the street for a while yet he seemed to have escaped to adopt the ugliness of it. This in my opinion can only happen under two circumstances; either you are extremely intelligent and have the ability to stand against many different odds or you are simple, and naïve to the extent of not having normal brain function.

In the case of this young man I think it’s a latter. It was a sad thing to have seen such an honest young man doing such a minimal work. We don’t have such honest hard working people anymore. I wondered, while he eagerly looked at the passing cars waiting for me to leave so he can avail the chance to make some money, why we can’t find people of this sort in the places where it matters. Again I would emphasize that I am not suggesting that there aren’t any honest people in the world, however I am suggesting that there isn’t enough of them. And if more people could be like this one person the world would be a better place to live. These are the unsung heroes that we forget to mention who are really putting up a fight against the cruelty of life. I claim this because they have gotten the shortest end of the stick yet they don’t complain and do whatever they can to make things work out on their own. They don’t beg or plead, they work hard to get where they want to go and this is the one true quality of a hero!

So, this goes out to all of those men and women who are true heroes and who are underappreciated. This goes out to those who have their hands full with hardship and still they find time to smile. This is for all those who have realized that dishonesty and cheating can probably make you some extra rupees but it cannot get you places in terms of being a responsible human being. What I would like to say to all of them is this:

I salute you! I praise your courage and stamina for putting up with the world the way you do. I wish all of us had even a drop of your strength. Just that would make us all much better people. I hope we can all one day realize how important and great you are and learn to appreciate and respect you the way you deserve to be appreciated and respected. I pray with all my heart that you get the chance shine through and make this country a great place to live.


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