Kindness is Payable

Commentary by Judy Winters

From the dawn of civilization, reciprocity has always been one of the gold standards of human relation. If you lend someone a favor, it is socially expected that he or she will repay you back in one way or another. The repaying, however, does not always have to be proportionate to the giving.

In recent times, the art of reciprocity has become no less a science. People have grown to be hesitant of showing kindness to others; they often bargain favors for reasonable returns. On the other hand, history has shown us that lending someone a hand without expecting anything in return may actually result in much bigger and better gains.

One famous instance of pure altruism took place in China during the Warring States period. At the time, there was a man named Han Xin. Even when he was still a child, Han was hailed by many as a prodigy. By the age of five, he had already defeated all the local masters of GO. By ten, he was sought for military advice by generals and princes. Unfortunately, he would encounter a series of misfortunes in the years after which eventually reduced him to poverty. He was forced to leave his homeland, and subsequently became a wandering beggar.

During his wandering, he was often bullied and beaten by bystanders. Even little kids would throw stones at him and mock him in unimaginable ways. One winter, Han suffered an acute illness. Just when he was about to die from both illness and hunger, an old lady who happened to pass by where he was took pity on him. She took him in, fed him and had a doctor checking on him. The nice woman even gave Han some money so he could start a new life.

She did all that without knowing who he was or what he was capable of. Little that she knew, this seemingly insignificant man would later become China’s most celebrated general. The first thing Han Xin did after achieving success was to visit the old woman and handsomely repaid her for her kindness.

Another famous instance took place during the early days of the Mongolian invasion of Europe. When the Mongols attacked the outskirts of Europe, many people fled from their homes and sought refuge in nearby towns and cities. Unfortunately, many cities refused to take them in fearing it would drain valuable resources and increase lawlessness. One Polish city, on the other hand, embraced the refugees. The refugees were fed and their needs were accommodated.

When the ferocious Mongol Horde started to move in and attack the inner areas of Europe, many cities were annihilated. To repay the gracious hospitality and kindness shown to them by the people of the aforementioned city, most of the refugees decided to stay put and even volunteered to be on the front line protecting the city. After several weeks of fruitless besieging, the Mongols decided to withdraw their troops and left the city alone.

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