We all know that suffering comes to everyone in various shapes. It could be poverty, disease, the break-up of relationships, thwarted ambitions, whatever.
Many theologians have dwelt on the usefulness of suffering in building character. For instance, J R Miller wrote: “We do not know how much we owe to suffering. Many of the richest blessings that have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow and pain.” Suffering may produce different reactions in different people, but here is a true modern Indian story.
Fr. Paul Akkara of Thrissur in Kerala had undergone a kidney transplant abroad. The process calls for tremendous aftercare. When Fr. Paul got home, he was not supposed to even talk on the phone. It was then that he came across one Chandrasekharan, a local taxi driver, who had also undergone a transplant and was facing complications after surgery.
Chandrasekharan was supposed to have a daily dose of two cyclosporin tablets costing Rs 180 each.
But since he also had to support his wife and three children, he was compelled to sell his taxi. To complicate matters, he lost his vision in the right eye due to diabetes.
Meanwhile, his two-year-old daughter was found to have a tumour in her brain.
Moved by his plight, Fr. Paul forgot his own doctor’s orders and went about begging people for money. He spoke from the pulpits of several parishes to raise funds.
A few opposed his gesture as improper. But many responded to his pleas. He was able to collect about Rs 6 lakh within months. The priest rested only after he was able to provide to Chandrasekharan with a home, a car and funds for his treatment.
Fr. Paul was spared any after-effects. Unfortunately, young Chandrasekharan, whom he had treated like a son, succumbed to his sickness after another five years.
The priest was by his bedside when the end came. Fr. Paul spent his time thereafter in the house of his own monastic order. But his story remains to inspire our better selves.