We live in a time where the actions of a single man are ascribed to a group of people. Whole nations are invaded and indiscriminately bombed in search of an individual, while entire religions stigmatised over the bigotry of a vocal few. Why then do the actions of Abdul Sattar Edhi not get inferably credited to any religion, region, group, sect or country? Can’t the case be made that he was Pakistani, Sindhi, Muslim and Memon?

The fact of the matter is that he was all these things but never got openly associated with any of them. His altruism was betrayed by the adulterated versions of eachof these. Edhi discovered early on that the sympathy of the Memon charity organisation that he volunteered to join was exclusive to Memons’. While on the orders of religious leaders, during Edhi’s formative years as a humanitarian, a new-born child was stoned to death outside a mosque for the crime of being born outside of wedlock. And the state forsook unclaimed dead bodies, not wanting to spend a dime on deceased citizens and allowing all of the above to go on unchecked.

Abdul Sattar Edhi, by far and away, and above all else, was a champion of humanity! In the infernal world of today, amidst all the ideological wars, theological wars, xenophobia, racism, intolerance, fanaticism and general all around hate spewing, the biggest victim is humanity. Every group in existence today, in its battle against its counterparts, subverts humanity. And Edhi stood tall, not associating with any group lest his crusade for humanity be tainted.

“No religion is higher than humanity,” he stated.

But this is not the time for strife and division over associations. It is time to recognise Edhi’s message and what he represented and achieved.

Edhi is gone. Leaving an indelible mark on this world. He is survived by two sons and two daughters and more than 35000 saved children between whom he never discriminated. A man, to whom living was not enough. A man, who set out on a quest of servitude of mankind 64 years ago, with the code, “live and help live” accomplished more than what some nation states do. A man humble till his last breath, Edhi became the embodiment of austerity through the unending practice of what he so ardently preached. But there was nothing humble about the man’s vision and his will and ambition to achieve it, even though humility was the cornerstone of Edhi’s dream. Even as his foundation began to grow and funds began to pour in, Abdul Sattar Edhi never took a backseat himself. He never worked on just the macro from afar from an air-conditioned office. He would be in an ambulance, responding to emergency calls, teaching children in his orphanages, collecting donations on street corners. Edhi was never more than a call and 3 to 5 minutes (in response time) away from each and every one of us, personally or as “Edhi,” a big font on an ambulance or on a workers vest and hat.

Edhi created the world’s largest, and perhaps one of the most efficient, around-the-clock ambulance service. Established over 300 welfare centres across Pakistan including, orphanages, blood banks, shelters – for both humans and animals, old age homes, free hospitals, providing emergency services, international relief services, drug rehabilitation services, air ambulance service, medical care and care for the handicapped. It really is an astonishing feat for only one man to achieve.

This is what Edhi has done for us, for each and every one of us. He worked himself to death for humanity, never taking time for himself. And in his death, he continues to give. In his death, he is already becoming a sigil of hope and love, peace and kindness, edification and harmony and prosperity through austerity.

But now the question is, what can we do for him? Will his dream gradually be forgotten to crumble and fall into decay? Yes, he has established a mega institution and left behind enough stakeholders to run it. And the donations might keep on pouring in to keep the welfare services going. His posthumous humanitarian invisible hand keeps on giving relentlessly. But we as a people, should be concerned about something bigger. Something he was causing behind the scenes, behind all the instantly measurable metrics. The subconscious effect on the nature of people. Edhi was a father tous all. So will Edhi centres be orphanages and cold intuitional shelters and medical facilities or will they still be the Edhi “homes” he intended them to be? The hope here is that people do not stop putting babies in the cots and fall back to their old ways, but that they stop throwing babies out.

Now that he is being quoted on countless posts and news feeds on electronic media and candlelight vigils are being held for him, the hope is that his life story inspires people to come forward and take action. To carry on his work. Realise his vision of a welfare global society and his biggest fear of poverty and wealth distribution. Because if we do commit to his ethos, collectively, as a people, we have a colossal task to keep his vision alive, let alone further it. Saints transcend boundaries in their universal faith and they come by every once in a while. Abdul Sattar Edhi was one from our times.