1892, Stanford University. A young student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan and did not know where to turn for money. He came up with a bright idea. A friend and he decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.
They reached out to the great pianist – Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2,000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck. And the boys began to work to make the concert a success. The big day arrived. Paderewski performed at Stanford. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell all the tickets.
The total collection was $1,600. Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1,600, plus a cheque for the balance of $400. They promised to honor the cheque as soon as possible.
Paderewski tore up the cheque, returned the $1,600 and told the boys, “Here’s the $1,600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees. And just give me whatever is left.”
The boys were surprised and thanked him profusely. To Paderewski, it was just a small act of kindness. Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like this in our lives. Most of us will only think, “If I help them, what will happen to me?” The truly great people think, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?” They don’t do things expecting something in return. They do things because they feel they are the right thing to do.
The story does not end here.
Paderewski later became the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War began, Poland was ravaged. People in Poland were starving and he had no money to feed them. Without other options, he reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.
The head of the administration was a man called Herbert Hoover – who later became the 31st President of US. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to Poland. A calamity was averted.
Paderewski was relieved. He traveled to US to thank Hoover personally. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his generosity, Hoover quickly interjected and said, ”You shouldn’t be thanking me, Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college in US. I was one of them.”