A little girl whose parents had died lived with her grandmother and slept in an upstairs bedroom.
One night, there was a fire in the house and the grandmother perished while trying to rescue the child. The fire spread quickly, and the first floor of the house was soon engulfed in flames.
Neighbors called the fire department, then stood helplessly by, unable to enter the house because flames blocked all the entrances. The little girl appeared at an upstairs window, crying for help, just as word spread among the crowd that firefighters would be delayed a few minutes because they were all at another fire.
Suddenly, a man appeared with a ladder, put it up against the side of the house, and disappeared inside. When he reappeared, he had the little girl in his arms. He delivered the child to the waiting arms below, then disappeared into the night.
An investigation revealed that the child had no living relatives, and weeks later a meeting was held to determine who would take the child into their home and bring her up.
A teacher said she would like to raise the child. She pointed out that she could ensure her a good education. A farmer offered her an upbringing on his farm. He pointed out that living on a farm was healthy and satisfying. Others spoke, giving their reasons why it was to the child's advantage to live with them. Finally, the town's richest resident arose and said:
"I can give this child all the advantages that you have mentioned here, plus money and everything that money can buy.”
Throughout all this, the child remained silent, her eyes on the floor. "Does anyone else want to speak?" asked the meeting chairman.
A man came forward from the back of the hall. His gait was slow and he seemed in pain. When he got to the front of the room, he stood directly before the little girl and held out his arms. The crowd gasped. His hand and
arms were terribly scarred.
The child cried out:
"This is the man who rescued me!”
With a leap, she threw her arms around the man's neck, holding on for dear life, just as she had that fateful night. She buried her face on his shoulder and sobbed for a few moments. Then she looked up and smiled at him.
"This meeting is adjourned," said the chairman.
Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much.
- Erich Fromm