Of late, I have been feeling guilty about "not doing things for others" on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis which I now feel I should have done.
You might ask, you have been a career Civil Servant and a teacher – haven't you provided service to others? True, but doing things for others was not the primary motivation for my career. I served to earn a living by which I could support my family, pay for my children's education, meet our healthcare, vacation needs and to entertain relatives and friends.
You will also agree that like me, most of us spend our entire lives mostly worrying about ourselves, our children, other family members and relatives. We think whatever we earn is for us, our children, other family members, and friends. Same is the case with all of our assets. Is it really so? Does society at large have any claim on our income or assets? Again, you might say that we do support others through payment of taxes and religious charities. But please remember that taxes and religious charities are coercive or obligatory in nature. But here, I am talking about doing things on a voluntarily basis for unrelated people and doing it without any expectation of quid pro quo.
This belief that all our income belongs to us, our family and friends, is not correct. Think about being deserted on an isolated island and trying to earn the money and acquire the assets that you have now. Society at large, unrelated people help us in earning the income and acquiring the assets by creating demand for our products and services and also by supplying the products and services that we need. I am not talking about money alone. How about time? How much time do we spend on doing things for others, doing things for unrelated persons? How would you use your days and your free-time on that isolated, deserted island? How many sunsets could you enjoy? How many hours could you sleep? Coming to the same analogy as income, doesn't society at large have a claim on our time?
Last summer, my wife, Dilruba, and I were at an old-age home at Friendship Heights near Farragut West Subway Station in Washington D.C., where a relative of mine was staying. My relative's only complain was about loneliness, and not meeting people outside the residents of the old-age home. There was one exception, however. Each month, a Caucasian young man, in his late-30s, a stranger to my relative, visited him once every month and spent half a day of a weekend with him, talking to him, inquiring about his well-being, taking him out for lunch or dinner, running errands, and helping out in any little way he could. He would even compensate for days he was abroad or could not make it over the weekends. While watching TV one day, my relative found out that the young man is a CEO of a multi-billion dollar communication company. Despite what must be a very busy schedule and many family obligations, that young man found time for my relative, someone just a stranger to him!
Out of our guilt, both Dilruba and I have recently decided to allocate a plot of land, a building, and our resources and time to do something for people unrelated to us. We have decided to build Shailan Probeen Nibash, an old-age home facility for 50 destitute people abandoned by their families. The home will provide free accommodation, food, clothing, primary health care and medicines for 50 such destitute senior citizens so that they may spend their twilight years happily and peacefully.
We intend to involve students at nearby primary school and high school to spend their time with the elderly, helping them, singing for them, designing New Years and Eid greeting cards for them, sharing a meal and playing with them to inculcate the value among the children about our obligation to help others in need of help. We will encourage our Doctor friends and relatives to attend the elderly and provide the succor by voluntarily donating their skills and time. We will invite our friends and relatives to share a meal and spend some time with their families with the residents of the old-age home to help them overcome their loneliness.
I would like to plead with you to not delay owning your guilt like us. Please act now. Allocate a portion of your resources and time every day, week or month for doing things for others. Our efforts are just a drop in the bucket. There are millions out there crying for your help: suffering from hunger, homelessness, requiring treatment, help in ambulating, facing unjust litigation and incarceration, unable to support their children education, marrying off daughters, facing unemployment, and even in need of someone to talk to. There are many such areas where help is needed, childcare is one such area. We have women working outdoor but who is going to take care of the children? We all are blessed in one way or the other and have various resources and skills at our disposal. Let's devote at least part of our blessing for doing things for others on a daily, weekly or at least monthly basis. By seeing us, our children and grandchildren will learn to do the same. What a beautiful legacy that would be to leave behind!
Muhammad Fouzul Kabir Khan is the former Power Secretary and Professor North South University