The Beauty of Giving

Ignacy J. Paderewski – Image credit:
Herbert Hoover – Image credits:

I recently received an email from a friend that had an inspiring story. On researching the story for authenticity I had to do a few amendments to it to make it more factual. An article by General Edward L. Rowny confirms the authenticity of the meeting of the two great men featured in the story. While I cannot confirm the authenticity of the details of the story the overall event is factual and worth sharing.

A young, 18 year old student and a friend of his decided to host a musical concert in Stanford University in 1892 to raise money for a worthy cause.

They reached out to the great pianist Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2,000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck. And the boys began to work to make the concert a success.

The big day arrived. Paderewski performed at Stanford. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1,600. Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1,600, plus a cheque for the balance of $400. They promised to honour the cheque soonest possible.

“No” said Paderewski. “This is not acceptable” He tore up the cheque, returned the $1,600 and told the boys “Here’s the $1,600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for the cause the concert was planned for and just give me whatever is left” The boys were surprised, and thanked him profusely.

Paderewski later went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War began, Poland was ravaged. There were over 1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them.

Paderewski did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.

The head was a man called Herbert Hoover – who later went on to become the US President. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to fee the starving Polish people. A calamity was averted.

Paderewski was relieved. He decided to go across to meet Hoover and personally thank him. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, “You shouldn’t be thanking me, Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college in the US. I was one of them.”

It was a small act of kindness but it clearly marked out Paderewski as a great human being. Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives and some people would think; “If I help them, what would happen to me?” The truly great people think, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?” They don’t do it expecting something in return. They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

But the universe has its own equalizers, the universe has its own reward mechanisms, the universe uses these people to show us what is right.

So lets enjoy the lesson, take the inspiration and do our little bit to make this world a better place.

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