By Bernie Lopez firstname.lastname@example.org
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the answer to greed is generosity to luxury is austerity to confusion is simplicity to indifference is sensitivity to war is dialogue to darkness is light to hatred is love
Tycoon no. 1, Jonathan, the head of a food conglomerate, brings his finicky ten-year-old son Peter to a fast food place before school every day, because he can eat only the terrible burger there for breakfast, nothing else. He frowns on the pretense and hypocrisy of expensive restaurants. In fear of being seen by his employees in such a ‘seedy’ place, Jonathan eats his breakfast inside the van while waiting for his son – two pieces of toast and a slice of cheese over brewed coffee. One day, crunching on his toast inside his sterile air-conditioned van, Jonathan sees Wally, a beggar with his son James, same age as his Peter. Wally has no legs and sits on an improvised widened skate board. James runs stealthily to the open section of the fast food as soon as customers stand up, and steals left overs. Jonathan cringes, seeing Wally eat a half-eaten burger. In his plush cold office, there are no tears, but here there are a few drops. Every day, Jonathan sees Wally and Peter procure their breakfast. Jonathan cannot stand it any longer, so he tells his chauffer to give a crisp one thousand peso bill to Wally. Wally looks at the van, trying to discern his benefactor in vain through the opaque tinted windows. To Jonathan’s surprise, Wally laughs aloud and rejects the money. Jonathan storms out of the van. JONATHAN – Hi. I’m Jonathan. WALLY – Wally here. JONATHAN – Just wondering, Wally. You are so poor, yet you reject one thousand pesos. May I know why? WALLY – There’s more to life than money, Jonathan. My only treasure left in life is my dignity. I never get hungry. There are always left overs. Half eaten burgers are great. My son is my only wealth. Jonathan, embarrassed, goes back to the van without a word. But now, a beggar gives a tycoon sleepless nights. It is total torture for this tycoon to see this beggar gulp a broken stick of french fry every day. He makes another move. He tells the chauffer to buy two take-out ‘big breakfasts’ and goes over to Wally. WALLY – Oh, hi Jonathan. Seems you got a problem, sitting inside your van every day, gawking at me. JONATHAN – As a matter of fact, yes. But now I have solved my problem. I am inviting you to breakfast. WALLY – That’s what I’m talking about. Sit, Jonathan. (The two start eating, Jonathan sitting on the curb.) Aren’t you afraid your employees will see you in your three-piece suit eating with a beggar on the pavement? JONATHAN – Nope. Doesn’t bother me. Not anymore. Thank you for telling me you want my friendship, not my money. Very rare I see this. I feel so special, so respected. WALLY – You mean you do not get respect from your employees? JONATHAN – Recognition, yes, but respect, no. WALLY – Oh. I am touched that I have gained your respect. JONATHAN – Same here, Wally. And so, every day, the tycoon and the beggar have rowdy big breakfasts on the sidewalk. They treat each other like equals. Wally would slap Jonathan on the back. Jonathan would put his arm around Wally’s shoulder. They become the best of friends. Eventually, Peter and James join them, and it is a boisterous party of four having breakfast on the sidewalk. People stop and stare at them, but the four stare back and laugh at them. The onlookers go away embarrassed. The crowd is getting bigger every day. Eventually, a journalist comes by, and takes a photo of the two with arms around each other. JOURNALIST – May I ask how this happened? JONATHAN – Simple. He rejected a thousand pesos and accepted a big breakfast. And so the duo are splashed all over the papers, headlined “Prince and Pauper at Breakfast”. A television crew comes to interview them, but the four shoo them away. They are forced to move to a nearby quiet park to get privacy and avoid being molested. The chauffer, wearing sneakers, uses a sports car to buy breakfast, so they are not traced through the van they used. Enter tycoon no. 2, Liz, who has a rival food conglomerate. Touched by the photos, awed by their guts, Liz seeks them out, hires a detective to find them. And so, she goes to the park. LIZ – Hey you guys. JONATHAN – Well, I’ll be … My arch-enemy. (They embrace.) LIZ – You bastard, you did it again. JONATHAN – What? LIZ – You got a fantastic image as the prince with a pauper friend. I envy you. WALLY – He inspired you. Now you are arch-friends. How nice. LIZ – No, Wally. You inspired me, and a million other people. It’s not easy to reject a thousand pesos for a poor man. WALLY – It was not easy for him to sit down on the curb with me. LIZ – I must say you have touched a lot of hearts on television without saying a single word. It’s a privilege to meet you. Tell me your secret. How’d you get this guy as a friend? WALLY – No. He got me as a friend. I would guess you’re from another empire? LIZ – Similar to his. (Wally offers her a bite of his half-eaten burger. She obliges. Jonathan cringes.) Eventually the two arch-rival tycoons put up a merger, the largest food conglomerate in the entire planet, all because of a beggar who refuse to lose his dignity. If you give (big breakfast), you receive a thousand fold (billion dollar merger). The two billionaires never offer a job to Wally. He remains as poor and happy as ever. His fortune is not of this world. To this day, the two tycoons envy the world of the beggar.
We live in an extremely materialistic world where spiritual values are vanishing fast. We have to somehow try to achieve spiritual reformation in our lives, first, on a personal level, second, on a social level, third on a global level. We have to emulate a beggar who touched the hearts of two tycoons, and a million others with one stroke of defiance against materialism. We need a spiritual renaissance so badly to balance our technological renaissance, because the destiny of our planet depends on it. Fight greed with generosity, luxury with austerity. Embrace simplicity and frugality. Balance digital power with social sensitivity. We cannot do all these on our own. We need help from the Lord to send Wallys into our lives to wake us up. Otherwise, our planet will self-destruct. Lord, give us the wisdom and strength to mend our ways, to find Your path in the labyrinths of an ever-shrinking planet. eastwind