the precious copper coin

the precious copper coin

Mahatma Gandhi, honored as the ‘Father of the Nation’ in India, is renowned all over the world for his relentless service to humanity. Today, October 2nd is Gandhi’s birth anniversary. In celebration of his birthday, I’d like to share a short story that illustrates one of the many reasons for him to be called ‘Mahatma’ (great soul).

Once, Gandhi was on an expedition to collect funds from various cities and villages for an organization to help the rural folks (Charkha Sangh). He went to several places and during one of his tours, he addressed a meeting in the state of Orissa.

He gave a public speech, requesting the local people to contribute funds for the organization. At the end of his speech, a poor old woman with bent back, tattered clothing, white hair, and shrunken skin got up. She requested the volunteers to allow her to reach Gandhi.

The volunteers, however, attempted to stop her. But the old woman fought her way to the place where Gandhi was sitting.

“I must see him,” she insisted and going up to Gandhi touched his feet. Then she took out a copper coin kept in the folds of her saree and placed it at his feet. The old lady then left the stage.

Gandhi very carefully took the coin. The treasurer of the Charkha Sangh, Jamnalal Bajaj, approached Gandhi and asked for the copper coin to be put into the common collection box. But Gandhi refused to give it.

“I keep checks worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal said laughingly, “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.”

Gandhi replied softly, “This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands. 

“If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees.”

Gandhi saw the pure generosity of the woman and her earnest intention to give. And so he regarded the coin as very precious.

. . . 

This short story is a great reminder for all of us to make giving a top priority, no matter where we are on the wealth scale.

The contribution of a person who has little but gives it all away is far superior to that of a person who has all and gives little away. This is why offering all the help we can — even when we have little to no wealth — makes our giving more valuable and meaningful.