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In My Eyes: The copper coin

By Edward B. Antonio

An honest centavo is better than a stolen peso, my elementary grades teacher used to say every morning when I was in Grade 5. That teacher had long died (she was the mother of a former mayor in my town, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur), but those words always resurface in my mind whenever I remember her.

I agree with her, fellas, absolutely.

When a news circulated that Manny Pacquiao is one of those with the biggest taxes remitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, my housemates could not hide their admiration. Next to him are the businessmen and yes, the movie stars.

Did they really pay their taxes to the last centavo? Or their clever accountants cleverly came out with the figures?

I always think that the best taxpayers are the government employees whose taxes are automatically deducted from their salaries everytime they receive their monthly wages.

Does it matter if one gives a peso and the other gives P1000?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Here’s a story to prove the latter:

Mahatma Gandhi went from city to city, village to village collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh. During one of his tours he addressed a meeting in Orissa.

After his speech a poor old woman got up. She was bent with age, her hair was grey and her clothes were in tatters. The volunteers tried to stop her, but she fought her way to the place where Gandhi was sitting.

“I must see him,” she insisted and going up to Gandhi touched his feet.

Then from the folds of her sari she brought out a copper coin and placed it at his feet. Gandhi picked up the copper coin and kept it inside his pocket.

Mahatma did not give the copper coin to the Charkha Sangh funds which were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj.

He asked Gandhi for the coin but Gandhi refused.

“I keep cheques worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal Bajaj said laughingly, “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.”

“This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands,” Gandhi said. “If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a casket of rupees.”

Bajaj was dumbfounded.

Another story told of a girl who stayed with her parents and elder sister in a cottage near a forest.

She used to collect water in a pot from a neighboring stream and carry it home every day.

One day in a severe summer, while returning from the stream with a pot filled with water, she noticed an old tree on the way. It was badly affected by the severe heat and drought. It was shedding its withered leaves and many of its branches had already dried up. Its withered roots were exposed above the ground and seemed to beg for a drop of water.

The girl had a very kind, generous and compassionate nature and she felt pity for the dying tree. She lovingly poured the water in her pot over the drying roots of the dying tree.

To her surprise she noticed that as the soil moved along the flowing water, a brightly colored jewel box became visible under a root.

She eagerly collected the box using a stick and opened it. It had a rich collection of gold coins, expensive jewels and exquisite ornaments. She carried it home and her parents were glad to get such a valuable treasure. They told her, it was a gift of God – a reward for the kindness she showed to the dying tree.

Her elder sister was envious of her sister’s fortune and she wanted to own a similar treasure.

She ran to the tree carrying a stick in her hand. She madly thrust the stick into every hole under the tree in search of a treasure. Suddenly a poisonous snake emerged from a hole as she poked at it. The snake sprang upon her, biting her to death. Her jealousy, envy and greed led to her tragic death.

Honesty is important in creating good relationships with people as well as achieving personal development. Typically, honesty entails avoiding lying to people or cheating and stealing.

Honesty also makes relationships stronger by promoting trust. If someone discovers that he has been lied to, he is more likely to doubt the liar’s words in the future. This not only limits the possibility of favorable treatment for the one who lies, but reduces the opportunity for cooperation between the two parties. Dishonest political leaders, for example, take advantage of their office in a variety of ways, such as stealing public funds and subverting due process.

Honesty also enables self-improvement. A person who is honest with himself recognizes his weaknesses and is thus able to work toward becoming better. Someone who is dishonest with himself denies his flaws and never improves.

Being dishonest is the greatest inviter of “karma.”

Now, was Manny Pacquiao or those businessmen or those movie stars that honest when they paid their taxes?

Maybe, fellas. Or maybe not.

Only God and Manny’s accountant know.#