The Fable of the 4 Philanthropists

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   Many generations ago, in a land not on any of today’s maps, sat a quiet and peaceful village of gentle folk. They were a bustling community with commerce as well as education. It’s the commerce part that brought trouble to the hamlet.

Being a treasure trove of easy loot is what put them on the radar of all sorts of bandits, snatch, and grabbers. 

 It wasn’t until a desperate group of them decided to band together in a consortium of thieves of sorts that they got into trouble that they at last couldn’t handle. 

Late one night, after all had retired to their sleeping quarters, the conquerors came in and took the village by storm. Because they’d never faced an orchestrated attack of this magnitude before, there was little they could do for such numbers. 


Once the night-long attack concluded, all the men had been put into prison cells by the dozen. The bandits also enslaved all the women and children to cook, clean, and whatnot day in and day out. 

A handful of the elders were left completely alone. Be it because they posed no physical threat to the new leaders, or because they had more than enough riches from the rest of the town, these few old men were free to walk about the town square. 

Upon hearing all about the conditions that the rest of the townsmen were being kept under, one of the elders, a philanthropist at heart, offered to the captors to be in full charge of providing clean water to the jailed inmates. 

The guards shrugged and saw no harm in this gesture, so it was allowed. 

A second philanthropist heard of this agreement that the first had struck and came up with one on his own. He offered to travel to the neighbouring town and have clean bedding purchased and provided to the captives. 

The guards again allowed this with no hesitation.

A third gentle soul got wind of what was unfolding on behalf of the first two elders. Not to be outdone, he offered to have his farm, just outside of town, available to supply food and nourishment to the prisoners. 

The jailers thought this to be a good idea, as keeping these men in optimum physical condition would bring a top price at market should they be sold to the highest bidder. 

A fourth edelman, a gentle soul among gentiles, was astonished at the offerings by the other three. All in their own way provided the means for the prisoners to be captive in a shade more comfort that previously. 

This fourth philanthropist was a saint if he were to be measured by today’s standards.  He was living at an elevated awareness that most of us only hear of in books. If we have ever had the joy of meeting one of these people, our lives would have been impacted profoundly.

This fourth philanthropist snuck into the prison at night and located where the keys were kept for all the prison doors. He quietly took the keys without anyone ever knowing and went down to open the doors of each and every prisoner.

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan...

If we are to look for a takeaway from this tale, may I make this suggestion:

Throughout our days, opportunities arise for us to do good for others in some fashion. Many times these go unnoticed. At times they get shrugged off. Other times we find it within ourselves to offer some help in a manner fit to the occasion. 

We donate some of our money to charity. 

We bring bags of unwanted clothing to shelters. 

We volunteer some of our time in the service of others. 

Each and every one as noble a gesture as could ever be asked. 

My ask for this takeaway is, in addition to the above that already fills your hearts and helps so many, take some time to ponder subtle, new and creative ways that you can be the fourth philanthropist and find a way to help get the keys for someone who’s guard is fast asleep. 

The simple fact is we never know what someone else is going through. Their primary needs for food and shelter may be met, but there are so many that are needing nourishment of the soul these days. 

These unfortunate ones aren’t always easy to spot however, so the best way to make the most impact is to do right by all, that way none are missed by your light.

Touching just one life with the right key, be it the right comment to a flustered cashier or helping someone with their bags to the car, may be enough of an offering to show them that there is some good still left in this world. Enough so that they themselves become a torch bearer for their days forward. 

The impact of our encounters we may never know, but the intention of a kind heart will be on the lips of many.

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