Kindness Daily: Incense and Generosity Bridge Faith Divide

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Incense and Generosity Bridge Faith Divide October 15, 2011 – Posted by hpotter
In India, it is very common to see children and adults begging. Standing at high density intersections, they can collect a good amount of money each day, while also enduring verbal and at times physical abuse. It would be easy to say that they should be given work, but often they can earn more through begging than working. Without a doubt, there are those in genuine need who are begging, but there are many more who beg for a living.

As I made my way towards the rickshaw I had spotted, I slowed my pace as there was a man near the driver. Moving closer, I saw that he wasn’t a passenger disembarking, but someone selling incense. Perhaps seeing me approaching, the driver put away his newly purchased incense and sent the man on his way. While the scene on the surface was nothing extraordinary, there was something out of place, the Muslim prayer cap on the driver’s head.

As I stepped into the rickshaw, my eyes followed the man and I could discern that he also had a mental handicap. I too felt that I should buy some incense, but by then the man was too far away.

"I never use incense," the driver said, interrupting my thoughts. "We never buy incense in my house." He had sensed my confusion and reiterated something I knew, that unlike Hindus’ prominent use of incense in rituals and prayer, Muslims did not have much use of incense.

"He could have been begging, but instead he was working with honesty to earn his money, so I wanted to show my support," the rickshaw driver explained. I was taken back by the man’s sentiments. Just moments ago, I wanted to buy incense for the same reasons.

He shared more on the ways to address the occupation of begging and I could not have agreed with him more. When we arrived at my destination, I gave him a 100 rupee note instead of 10. I wanted him to use the money for acts like the one he did that day. He refused to take the money. I then explained to him that this was not a "reward" or anything else to diminish the simplicity and authenticity of his act, but rather a request on my behalf to utilize the money for good. He was someone who spent his days on the road and he had eyes to see those who could use some support. He finally accepted and as I walked away, I could not help but smile. So often, there are stories of Hindus vs Muslims in India, but here was one of humanity.

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