One does not have to be a great scholar to teach another person a great lesson.I learned mine in a weather-beaten environment where sweat and hard work was the order of the day. I learned it from a barefooted man, who could not spell his own name and earned his living with his unskilled hands.It was during school breaks that I had befriended this porter, who was as bright and smiling as the sun itself. He worked hard at the dockyard in the same terminal where I worked as a tally clerk. The jolly man arrived daily to work at the ungodly hour of six in the morning.Some 50 odd years separated us, but he always shared experiences of his life with me. I vividly remember days when he was relatively unoccupied because no ship had called at the small harbour. He sat on a ramshackle stool plonked between two warehouses, hoping that someone would come and asked for his service. Since I was also idle on those particular days, I would end up going home early. And just as I would be leaving, he would say: “Bring back better luck, tomorrow, son!”A year after interacting with him daily, I found out that he had 11 children to feed from his meagre earnings. I would watch him kiss the palm of his right hand whenever he got paid after a hard day’s work and raised his hands to the heavens in deep gratitude. He taught me, in a very humble way, that it was important to be grateful, even if nothing was earned during the day.“Gratitude,” he once said as we took a break to eat lunch, “makes you forget the ingratitude of others towards you. Nothing hurts a person more than envying others who have a more secure livelihood.”Well, I still think he was a great philosopher because for me, his words resonate with reality till this day. He went on to teach me another lesson - one he learned the hard way, but I still had to wait for another summer to experience it. He was sitting on the same old stool, but his face was drooping in dismay and his usual cheerfulness was masked by sorrow. I feared the worst and when I inquired, he said: “The accountant said goodbye to me yesterday because he is retiring. He’s decided to call it a day and said he was looking forward to a quiet life and a pension.”I heaved a sigh of relief that nothing bad had happened to him or his family, but still was puzzled. “It may be a happy occasion for him, but why are you so sad?” I gently asked.He wiped his face with his head cloth and then looked at his hands, feet and other parts of his body.“I won’t be getting any pension when I am too old to work because I am a daily wage labourer,” he said. “And I have 11 children to feed.”That summer came and went and a few others, too! On my final year at school, the old man met with a tragic accident. He broke an arm and fractured his thighbone. I went to see him and he told me that the most important tools of his trade - his limbs - could never been mended properly.Was he sad? No, instead, he said: “Something would come up sooner or later.”And he was right! Six months passed and I saw him again limping in a marketplace with a group of young muscular men.“One of the dockyard contractors hired me to supervise young porters for a government project,” he said giving me a toothy grin.Something good is, indeed, in store for the man, who is always grateful!

The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.