I was about 11 years old when I first went to the theatre to watch a movie. This was no ordinary day for me. It had come to me in the form of a gift and I had prepared for weeks and months to get it.
Just a few months before, during one of my uncle’s visits to our home, he had promised me that if I scored a mean grade of A- in my exams, this would be my reward. That school term was the hardest I studied and it paid off.
I couldn’t hide my anticipation on this great day. We got to the theatre an hour and a half before the show but the ticketing queue seemed to stretch for miles. It was an eager and anxious wait only contained by a feast of pre-movie popcorn. Finally, after what seemed like eons, there was only one family between us and the ticket counter.
There were eight children, all probably younger than I was and I could sense they had also never been to the movies before. If you think I was excited, you should have seen them. They could not be contained; jumping, screaming and occasionally breaking out of file as they ran around the ticketing booth.
Their father and mother were ahead of the pack, standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re my knight in shining armor.”
He was smiling and basking in pride, looking at her as if to reply, “You got that right.”…..
“Could I please buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets?” The father asked the ticket lady, holding out a five hundred shilling note.
The ticket lady quoted the price.
Almost instantly, the wife let go of her husband’s hand and dropped her head. The man’s lips began to quiver.
He leaned a little closer to the booth and asked, “How much did you say?”
The ticket lady again quoted the price.
It was apparent that man didn’t have enough money. He fidgeted, patting his pockets and looking around worriedly.
How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money for them all to see the movie? How would he bear the shame of seeing their disappointment?
What happened next will forever live in my mind……….
Seeing what was going on, my uncle slowly put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a 1000 shilling note, and dropped it on the ground.
He then reached down, picked up the note, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.”
The man knew what was going on, and it was obvious that he appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking, embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my uncle’s eyes, took his hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the 1000 shillings note, and with a tear balancing in his eyes he replied, “Thank you, thank you, sir. I will never forget this!”
……….Honestly, I do not remember the title of the movie we watched that day. Its storyline is even fuzzier in my mind. However, one thing has stuck with me for nearly 2 decades……..
I have seen few eyes as grateful as that father’s as he shook my uncle’s hand and I have seen even fewer smiles as radiant and beautiful as those of the 8 children as they strolled happily into the theatre.
As I recall the events of that day, I can’t help but ask, when was the last time you put a smile on someone’s face? When was the last time you gave without expecting anything in return? How often do you give your love, your service and your time all in an effort to help someone else?
Even to date, I have never thought my uncle to be a wealthy man, at least not by the Forbes list or any other list. Of all the time I have known him, I have never seen the man ill or in a desperate situation he couldn’t get out of. Maybe it’s his cheerful demeanour or confidence that makes all about him seem glorious.
Deep down though, I believe he has had and continues to enjoy a good life because of his generosity. Not just on that day, but as his life’s philosophy.
An ancient Chinese proverb says “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives flowers.” When you do a good deed without expecting anything in return, ironically you too, get the reward. Nothing uplifts one’s soul like selfless love.
My charge to you, give generously, give freely, give whole-heartedly and the fragrance will always linger.