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Tribute to selflessness!

Huzaima Bukhari

“A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares”—Debie Mazar, an American actress.

Home is a place of comfort. It hardly matters how it looks like but for human beings especially, there is nothing like the security of one’s abode. One can travel all around the globe, enjoy all kinds of luxuries abroad, go on exotic cruises, explore unknown places but on returning, the usual remarks are “home, sweet home.”

What exactly draws us to seek pleasure in our own little world are the many odds and ends to which we have grown accustomed to and which provide us with a sense of protection as well as ease. The idea of belonging, the placement of things connected to our habits, knowing exactly where something of need is located, the privacy, the feeling of well-being and so much more have their bases right in that place which we proudly refer to as our home.

Expanding the scope of this notion to one’s village, city, province and finally the country, it would transpire that similar sentiments of attachment can be discerned among people. The idea of becoming homesick springs from staying at a distance from one’s roots. There is a wealth of literature on this subject with poems, novels, write-ups, reflecting love for home and homeland. Those expatriates who travel to foreign countries in search of livelihood and who leave behind their families should be appreciated because this sacrifice is at the expense of their own emotional health and a lot they are bound to miss with respect to their near and dear ones. There is perhaps one redeeming factor that in return they are providing their kin with resources best available to them. Perhaps this is the idea that keeps them motivated!

Now if this is the level of association between man and his home then commendable are those spirits that adopt alien lands as their permanent home, not for the purpose of making money but to serve humanity. Again, being kind to one’s neighbours is easy, doing charitable work for one’s community is praiseworthy, setting up philanthropic institutions in one’s country is laudable but the common thread in all these noble acts is the nexus to one’s home.

What if one had to uproot oneself from a highly civilized environment to reach out to humans infected with disease and misery? What if one lays down one’s youth and aspirations at the altar of compassion and resolve to resurrect lives of those abandoned by their own people? What if their new home is a far cry from the one left behind in terms of progress, development and comfort? What if the new standard of life is simply incomparable with the one bid goodbye? These are questions the answer to which is just one word—selflessness!

Keeping oneself at the lowest level of priority and giving preference to other people’s needs are the main characteristics of selfless persons and mercifully, there is no dearth of individuals who are blessed with magnanimity. Some may have achieved great prominence and fame but there are many unsung heroes who silently but persistently work for betterment of humanity. They know that divinity acts through its altruistic volunteers because of whom this world continues to exist otherwise the so-called political leaders have left no stone unturned to destroy mankind using political maneuverings, economic strengths and wars.

Oblivious to these inhuman tactics, the selfless continue in their duties towards enriching lives of their wretched human brethren. Historically speaking, there are infinite number of great men and women who have earned popularity and goodwill of ordinary people but prominent among them are those like the late Dr. Ruth Pfau, who travel to strange lands to embrace the woes of those discarded by their society. She was a German, a Roman Catholic and someone who was totally alien to the Pakistani social system, language, customs and traditions. The only bond that she carried with her was empathy for the downtrodden. She wanted to mend the broken chain of humanity with the link of her immense love for those afflicted with leprosy,

For her a leper was not someone who was cursed and suffering penance for past sins as widely believed. These were patients condemned merely because of limited knowledge of medical science and general ignorance prevailing among the people. She came at the prime of her youth when young ladies dream of a blissful family life and stayed back till her last day on this earth. What remarkable sense of commitment to a cause based in a foreign country!

Early 1960s Pakistan was certainly not as advanced or developed as West Germany. There were infrastructure issues with few amenities, specifically in areas where the lepers were located. Due to their deformation, they were subjected to the most humiliating living conditions where visitors were reluctant to go, what to talk of living among them. Here is where one’s belief in humanity is affirmed. An angel in the garb of a human being lands in a living hell and transforms it into a heaven, becomes a solace for the lepers anguished by their disease with no hope of respite, stands up for their rights where others inflict torture. 

Such was her persona that did not discriminate humans on account of their faith or ethnic origin. Where the prejudiced refuse to open their places of worship to non-believers, she opened her heart to all and sundry, healing the despised and allowing them an opportunity to rediscover their lost aspirations. For this selfless lady no difficulty was too difficult, no hindrance was too obstructive, no trouble was too troublesome, and no anxiety was too bothersome. She managed to overcome every possible impediment that came in between her and her cause, emerging successfully on all fronts.

Only an unselfish understands the remarkable strength that is derived from being selfless. Men in power are forced to succumb before the might of a benign humanitarian worker. Force becomes helpless when faced with a resolute whose life is devoted to serving mankind. Nothing is as gratifying as alleviating the pain of a distressed but this can only be experienced by one who actually believes in love and humanity. He or she is the true hero, larger than life and closer to godliness.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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