Thursday November 17, 2011
Aidan Paul of South Burlington, (pictured at right) recently celebrated his eighth birthday. However, instead of receiving gifts, he decided to ask for donations to help those in need. Aidan has always had a philanthropic heart, but this gesture of good will is not without a story.
When Aidan turned 5, his family traveled to Mumbai, India where he experienced an event that changed him. In keeping with cultural tradition, the family visited a temple. After taking off his shoes, Aidan maneuvered his little feet on the dirt covered cobblestones. Knowing there were more challenges ahead, his mother offered him a treat—a packet of fruit snacks, which he was to receive later.
Hobbling across, the family stopped to buy the traditional baskets of marigolds and modaks—sweet pyramid-shaped dumplings—as offerings. Carrying them up the path, they noticed a very long line.
Aidan held his composure for the first hour, until people began pushing and shoving each other to get into the temple. Being terrified and feeling a sense of claustrophobia, Aidan began crying. His mother reminded him of the special treat he was to receive at the end. The crowd inside the temple became frenzied. Aidan held his grandmother tight and closed his eyes. They handed over their offerings and were carried out by the crowd wave. To an Indian, what would pass as a rather perfunctory weekly ritual was quite an ordeal for Aidan.
Finally, as the family was clambering out of the temple, his mother handed the fruit snacks to Aidan. Before he could even open the packet, there appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, a beggar. No older than Aidan, she had on a tattered dress covered in dirt. As she scratched her matted hair with one hand, she gestured with the other at Aidan’s fruit snacks. It appeared as though the fruit snacks had suddenly become glued to Aidan’s hand and he was determined in his will to keep his well-earned treat. His grandfather gave the girl some rupees instead, and the family proceeded to drive away. As Aidan opened up his fruit snacks and began savoring them, he began asking questions about the little girl. When the truth became apparent to him, he was beside himself. He began crying, asking to turn the car around, to go back to the little girl, so he could give her the fruit snacks.
The little girl never got her fruit snacks, but her image had been forever branded in Aidan’s heart. So, when it came to receiving presents this year, Aidan decided to ask for donations instead. He settled on the Family Services Center at the VNA where he could make a difference locally by donating children’s items and also bring a sense of peace to the image of the little girl who wanted his fruit snacks.
SOURCE: Ritika Paul