The Happy Giver

By: Zaid Mohamad

Common sense will tell us that a person receiving something will be happy with their gift. Technically, we should be happy when we receive new toys, the latest mobile phone or a lovely dress. But, is this really true? Ultimately, who’s happier? The giver or the receiver?

Let me share a story that a friend recently told me. 

From a Facebook page called The Unknown but Not Hidden, it’s a story about former Hollywood legend Katherine Hepburn. It goes like this:

“Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus. Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me. There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. 

The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean. The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they’d be seeing that night. By their excitement you could sense they’d never been to the circus before. It would be the highlight of their lives.

The father and mother were at the head 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 armour.’ He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.

The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted. He proudly responded: ‘I’d like to buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus.’ 

The ticket lady stated the price.

The man’s wife let go of his hand. 

Her head dropped, while the man’s lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked: ‘How much did you say?’ The ticket lady again stated the price.

The man didn’t have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a US$20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We weren’t wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the US$20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said: ‘Excuse me sir, this fell out of your pocket.’

The man understood what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a hand-out but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heart-breaking and embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the US$20 bill, and with lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied: ‘Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.’

My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The US$20 that my dad gave away was what we were going to buy our own tickets with. Although we didn’t get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide. That day I learnt the value to give.”

The story is a powerful reminder about the joy of giving. The next time you feel down, you know what to do. Find those who are in need and give to them generously. In the end, it’s not the receiver who’s the happier. It’s our inner self that will finally be at peace with ourselves.


Zaid Mohamad is the bestselling author of Smart Parents, Brighter Kids and Smart Parents, Richer Kids and writes for weekly column in The New Sunday Times.


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