She was pathetically thin. The jeans she wore faded, cast offs maybe, the top cheap printed kurta also from an orphanage pool basket. She stood against the other well- dressed children on the stage, a contrast really. She was blind. The spotlight was focused on her, and the audience wiped a tear as she stood awkwardly as the children’s choir sang around her.

When the song was over rough hands shoved her this way and that, she was pushed back again as the soloist stepped forward for her standing ovation. She stood confused on stage and then slowly tiptoed away.

Her work was done. She had brought the required tear to people’s eye. She was not required as a showpiece any longer. The song they sang was made me grimace with shame:

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers,

That you do unto me,

How beautifully they had sung, how well she had tried to sing along, yet choir members hardly realized they had ‘the least of their sisters’ in their midst as she was shunned and pushed away by them!

How easy it is to sing songs with expressions of piety! To look at pictures of famine victims and sigh! To give looks of sympathy to the jobless and homeless, but when it comes to reaching out and touching, we push and shove and nudge them away.

And yet we make use of them, like that choir did to gain tear filled eyes. As members of social organizations we tell people about our pet projects to gain looks of admiration. We start night study centres for the poor so our club gets brownie points in the district! We show photographs of AID victims so some of the moolah that Bill gave away can land in our gravy plates!

We need the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the homeless, as showpieces, so our names get known. We photograph them, but keep them far away..!

I remember a few months back, someone who did rehabilitation work in jails approaching me. He told me that there was an ex-convict who had changed his ways and he needed a place to stay. “Do you have any friends who could put him up?” he asked. “Yes,” I smiled, “you!” He looked at me horrified and went away quickly.

Very rarely have I seen charitable homes treating their inmates with any degree of charity. Yet the heads of such organizations travel all over speaking of the good work they do and gathering funds. The walls are whitewashed, the furniture polished and the poor cry unheard..!

The last verse of the song the choir sang rings in my ear: “Now enter into the home of my Father.” Very frankly I doubt there’s going to be any gates opening up there for us with the sort of charity window dressing we do down here..!

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