Abdul Sattar Edhi, or just “Edhi” for short, recently passed away.
He had been alive on this planet for 88 years before he died, but I had never heard of him.
Recently I moved to a new casa, and my neighbors are from Pakistan. Their son told me about Edhi’s passing, which prompted me to learn more.
As I read more, it didn’t take long to realize that this man was literally Pakistan’s version of Mother Teresa.
And they had a lot in common too. For instance, both lived very simply and humbly. Both stayed engaged at a grass roots, hands-on level in their work throughout their lives, serving the poorest of the poor with their own hands.
Both refused donations from government agencies, fundraising efforts and suspect entities, taking only individual private donations to fund their work.
And both received death threats.
While he was alive, Edhi owned only two sets of clothes. His office, where his work is now carried on entirely by volunteers (as it has always been), is an 8 foot by 8 foot room, behind which sat his bedroom (dimensions not given, but chances are good it is not palatial).
Before he died, Edhi’s daughter gifted him with a brown plastic sofa to replace the hard wooden bench he had used for decades past. Of this little luxury, Edhi said:
“I didn’t ask for it, it was given to me by my daughter,” he says. “I like simplicity, but I didn’t get angry with her.”
According to the Edhi Foundation website, there are more than 6,000 volunteers serving the 6,000 destitute residents who live in the 250 Edhi centers as well as the more than 1,000,000 ill or injured citizens who need ambulance transport to local hospitals annually.
About a year before he died, Edhi was robbed at gunpoint. The 10 armed robbers took $200,000 plus 5kg of gold – all of it belonging to the poor, who often don’t have access to banking services and are permitted to store what they have in the foundation’s secure lockers instead.
I just find all of this outrageous, by the way.
Yes, private donors quickly mobilized to replace the lost funds and more besides, but 10 armed robbers against one 88-year-old man?
Unfortunately, throughout history, do gooders like Edhi have tended not to fare so well.
Jesus – well, we all know what happened to him. St. Peter, his best known disciple, met a similar uncomfortable fate. John the Baptist, the prophet charged with foretelling Jesus’s arrival, was beheaded.
Venture further back in the history of different faiths and there are many more tales of murder and mayhem directed at those who were just trying to bring a little light into this world.
Of this, Edhi told NPR:
“There’s so much craftiness and cunning and lying in the world.” “I feel happy that God made me different from the others. I helped the most oppressed.”
That he did. Death threats or no death threats.
Today’s Takeaway: Can you think of someone who is so generous but often gets only grief or trouble in return? Is there a mentor or spiritual figure you look up to who has had to persevere in their work in the face of tremendous opposition, misunderstanding or danger? Why do you think this is? What is it about good people that seem to bring out the worst in others?