An old woman was selling pieces of salt blocks in an open market at Axum, Ethiopia. It was very clear from her rugged clothing, frown face, wrinkled skin and limited movements that the woman lives a life undeservedly well below the poverty line.
A young tourist along with a local guide and translator was enjoying the peaceful open market in a semi-urban setting. She came along the old woman and was caught by the strange pieces the woman is selling, as they were not common in societies where she came from.
She asked her guide what these materials were and he told her they were pieces of salt blocks. She wanted to know the price so that she can keep one for her amusement. The boy asked the old woman and was told it was only 5 Birr per piece. The boy was very touched by the life of the old woman and wanted to help her. He then told the tourist it was only 10 Birr.
The young tourist was very happy and gave her 10 Birr. The boy told the old woman soon she should keep the change for herself. The old woman, however, strongly urged that she doesn’t want what’s not hers as it was against her personal values. She soon gave the tourist back her exchange. The boy was totally confused with what to do.
Money is obviously powerful. It can certainly buy almost anything except life. But, no matter how badly poor they are, no matter how urgently they need money, there are people with unspoiled social values beyond the power of money.
Its not how tightly the government set the rules, nor is it how more laws & lawyers came into effect, its how you let people freely practice their own social values first. Enforcement and impositions always hurt and provoke resistance. Self-will keeps the world going.