I heard about one lady. Her name was Sindhutai Sapkal.
In brief summary, she was born in a poverty-stricken village in Maharashtra India. She never really had any education.
When she was a little girl and wanted to go to school, her family made her take care of buffaloes.
When she was 9 years old, she was married to a man who was about 30. By the time she was 19, she had 3 sons and she was pregnant.
A mafia type of person who was exploiting the people of the village was especially forcing the women of the village to really work hard and paying them practically nothing and everyone was afraid.
But Sindhutai told the local collector who was overseeing the police, and that person was stopped from what he was doing. But he was so angry. He went and told Sindhutai’s husband a lie.
He said, “You’re such a fool. Your wife is having affairs with so many men. In fact, the child that is within her womb is my child, not yours. I’ve been having sex with her. If you don’t kill the child and kill her I will kill you.”
SO the husband, the girl is 19 years old, he kicked her in the stomach repeatedly to kill her and the child.
She laid unconscious. He thought she was dead. So he dragged her to the cowshed, where a whole herd of cows were being kept. Thinking that people will feel that the cows just trampled her and that’s how she died.
So she laid there unconscious, and she woke up she said, she found one cow standing right above her, protecting her. There were all these buffaloes and oxen and cows walking and they would have certainly trampled her, but this cow was keeping everything away from her. And even when the in-laws came to make sure she was dead, the cow chased them away with their horns, and stood over her.
She came to consciousness and gave birth to a baby girl under the cow. And she said she took a rock and cut her umbilical cord. Took about 20 slices to get free from it.
And for hours and hours the cow protected and Sindhutai, when she got enough strength, she embraced the cow and promised as you protected me when I was in great need, I will protect others who are in need.
It’s a long story, but no one would have her back. Her own family rejected her, her biological family, because according to their tradition once you’re married you can never come back home. A foolish tradition as many are these days. In order to not be exploited, she was sleeping in a crematorium with her little baby child. And she would collect wheat that people would put around dead bodies, and she’d mix it with water and cook it on the fire of the dead corpses.
It became such a depressing life for her. She decided, I don’t want my child to live like this. So she was going to commit suicide. She went to a railway track with her child in her arms and laid waiting for the train to crush them.
But as she was laying there, she heard someone crying in anguish. So she got up and she found an old man, who was crying out. He was crippled, he was very very invalid. And he was crying for some food and water, so she went and begged, and got him food and water.
She was thinking that the old man was the voice of God. She said it was telling me that I had a higher purpose in life than to commit suicide. I have something to do, something to contribute to this world.
But later in the day, she was sitting in a field wondering what am I going to do. I have nothing, I have no one. How can I help anyone? She was under a tree and she saw that there was a branch of the tree that a woodsman with an axe had violently cut. The branch was just hanging by a single string. But that branch was giving her and her child shade. So she was thinking, this is the answer.
However much I have been beaten down, still I could do something for others. So she started going and finding homeless, abandoned, orphaned children, and she became their mother, taking care of them.
Somehow or other she learned how to sing really nice, and she begged with her singing and she provided for them and somehow or other kept them safe.
After some time people saw what a difference she was making to so many people that they built an orphanage for her.
Over the years, she had about 1,500 children, over a thousand grandchildren and she’s made a tremendous difference in her life. All of her children have a great education, many are doctors, lawyers and farmers, something she never had.
She’s won so many awards internationally for her accomplishments.
But then she explained, what the most meaningful and fulfilling thing she ever did in life.
Years and years later, after the President of India gave her awards and governors of states and international awards. This really old man came to her orphanage. He was starving. He was sick. He was homeless. He was asking for shelter. After a few minutes she recognised, this was her ex-husband. The person who tried to murder her maliciously.
She said to him, when you left me to die, I was homeless in rags. Now you’re homeless and rags and I have a nice place with so many people.
She said the most meaningful thing in her life that she forgave him, and she said I will give you shelter, but I’m not your wife, I’m your mother. And when people would visit the orphanage, she would introduce him. This is my eldest son, and sometimes he’s very naughty.
She told this story to me and it moved me. I shared this story somewhere and it came in youtube. Someone showed her the video and she wanted to meet me. I met her, and she was with the couple other people, and we spoke for about an hour together. It was a wonderful conversation.
And afterwards, there was one lady who was sitting next to her, who was just beaming with smiles the whole time, but didn’t say much of anything. And when I was just about to leave Sindhutai said, I want to introduce to this girl, she’s the one who was born under the cow. She’s now a medical doctor, and she’s taking charge of one of our orphanages.
And then she said to me, I consider all of the tragedies in my life, to have been gifts to empower me, to make a difference to others. She considered it all the grace of God.
She said my life has been a road with many thorns, but I made friends with those thorns, and my life became beautiful, and I could give beauty to so many other people’s lives.
That’s one little example of influence without affluence.
The power of compassion is far greater than anything that money can do. But when money, knowledge, strength and skills are built on the foundation of that compassion, then not only is our own life enriched beyond our comprehension, but we could make such a difference. We could have such a difference. We could have such an influence in the world. Each and every one of us, whoever we are. Because everyone is so inherently special, and nothing and no one can take away from us, as long as we are aware.
To be an instrument of compassion, an instrument of grace, is the true influence beyond affluence.