As I dropped some coins into the kettle of the Salvation Army bell-ringer today, I was reminded me of this story about that logically illogical fellow, Nasruddin, and the time he gave coins to two beggars.
If you're not familiar with the Nasruddin stories, you've missed some funny and strange tales. These old stories have layers of meaning, while often provoking out-loud laughter by their incongruity.
Nasruddin is usually referred to as a "wise fool." I suppose that's an apt description, although he usually seems more wise in his stories than foolish. Nasruddin is a Persian storytelling character who appears in stories as far back as the 13th century. He is also referred to as the Hodja, or Mullah Nasruddin, and his name has several variant spellings.
Coming from the Middle East, these stories are a reminder of other aspects of a culture that we sometimes forget is more than what we hear on the news.
Here is the story:
Nasruddin and the Two Beggars (Middle East)
Nasruddin was walking down the street when he saw a beggar asking for money. Nasruddin asked him:
Are you extravagant? Oh yes, said the beggar.
Do you like to sit around and drink coffee? Yes, said the beggar.
Do you like to go to the baths every day? Oh yes, said the beggar.
And do you like to amuse yourself by going out with your friends, perhaps to dinner?
Yes, I like to do all those things, said the beggar.
Well, said Nasruddin, and gave the beggar a gold piece.
He met another beggar and asked the same questions. The second beggar answered no to all of them. Nasruddin gave him a small copper coin.
The second beggar asked, why do you give me so little when you gave that other fellow so much?
Ah my friend, replied Nasruddin, his needs are greater than yours.