by Bhante Wimala
In our daily life we often carefully plan and organize the things that we wont to do to help others. But we should always keep some space open in our hearts to do spontaneous acts of compassion. Such spontaneous and simple acts of compassion at times can change the life of another person forever. They could often touch the person who does the giving as deeply as the person who benefits from it. I would like to share a personal experience of mine with you. Hopefully it will inspire you to keep your mind receptive and heart open to help somebody in an unexpected moment.
Sila Hendric lives in a small village called Gunnepena near Kandy, Sri Lanka. She had adopted a handicapped girl over 35 years ago and contirues to take care of her. It has been two years since she lost her job and both women are bearly able to servive.
When we sat in the narrow living room of her small house, they were overjoyed at my unexpected visit. She said, “Today our hearts are full. It is as if Buddha came to our house.” Over a cup of hot water I talked with these two innocent women about their lives and could feel their beautiful spirit.
Sila used to live with her parents and took care of them until they both died. She had a job in the weaving mill. The company gave her a small anout of money when she was laid off about two years ago. A relative who knew about the money, borrowed it, promising to give it back. She never heard from him again.
As these two women struggled to take care of each other, they were often harassed by some men which I would not like to talk bout the datails of. I listened to the story of their struggle for survival, only occasionally asking some questions. I felt that more than listening to me they needed to talk. The flickering flame of the oil lamp cast a shadow on their faces, revealing a much deeper side of their painful struggle.
I understood that if I could help them get electricity to their house it could solve many problems that they were having. They could have outside lights so that they could turn them on from the inside and therefore not live in fear. The most important thing is that they would feel safe at night. On rainy days, they could heat water or cook without having to worry about firewood. Many other benefits of electricity would lessen the burden that they carry.
By the time I left their home it was about 9pm. As the engine of my car broke the silence of the night I turned and looked back. Holding the oil lamp they both stood outside the door. I saw them trying to secure the flame from getting blown out by the wind. From the distance I could not see their faces. I wished that the wind would not blow out the flame before they enter the house. I felt sorry about leaving them in darkness.
The next day, I called my oldest sister. I explained the situation and asked her to act immediately to provide them with electricity. I gave specific instructions on how to wire the house for outside lamps around the little house, inside switches and so on. My sister, whom I could always trust, took over the project and finished it within a month. Of course, I paid all the bills.
In one of my subsequent visits to Sri Lanka I went to see these two women again. It was unbelievable how much difference getting electricity has made in their lives. They have never been happier and healthier.
With both hands on their chest, to show their gratitude and thanks to me, time and again they expressed this wish, “May you achieve enlightenment with the power of this noble deed.” That is the highest wish a Buddhist could make. They described to me how they can sleep through the night without fear and worry. Many other benefits of electricity have taken away so much unnecessary suffering and pain out of their lives. When I spontaneously acted on my feelings and decided to help them I never imagined that my simple act of compassion could make such enormous difference in their lives. I felt their happiness and it became part of my happiness.
Sila said, “Don’t you see that we are much healthier and happier now and that your help has changed our lives?.” Of course, I made a joke, “Now you know how those multi vitamin pills I gave you can change your whole life. Don’t stop taking them.” It was wonderful to hear their laughter.
The echo of that laughter will stay with me for a long time. The clear memory of it will continue to inspire me to do many more little things that will make a big difference in the lives of our fellow human beings.