As I sit here and write this piece on sacrifice, someone somewhere has skipped their meal to feed their hungry child; someone has given up their career to spend more time with their family; someone has forgone their sleep to take care of an ailing family member. Such selfless acts happen all around us all the time and yet, they are anything but trivial. It takes a lot of courage and integrity to sacrifice one’s needs for the benefit of another individual.
This reminds me of a story on sacrifice that stayed with me long after I heard it. It is excerpted from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Here is how it goes. There once lived a poor family–comprising a man, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law–in a village. They didn’t earn much and on most days, they ended up starving. During such a terrible time, a famine struck their village, leaving them more helpless than ever. When he could no longer see his loved ones suffer, the father went in search of food and finally brought home some. As the family was about to eat, they heard a knock on the door.
Outside was a poor traveller who was famished after his journey. The old man invited him in and offered him his portion of the food. When it did not satiate the traveller’s hunger, his wife gave him her food. When that wasn’t enough either, his son offered him his share. Yet, the weary traveller was not full. Then the daughter-in-law too fed him her share. Finally full, the traveller thanked them and left. A moment later, a brilliant light shone on the house. Turns out, it was god who had come to test the family in the disguise of a traveller, and their generosity was rewarded with wealth and happiness.