The following is a story I heard from the imam at the mosque after the zohor (mid-day) prayers earlier today. It touches on a theme which I have often heard but when presented with a fresh angle based on a supposedly true story, it makes it all the more interesting.
A medical student in a middle-eastern country and his professor were sitting down having tea one afternoon at a cafe. The professor takes out a one-dinar (or whatever the unit of currency of that particular country) note and with a pen, starts to draw caricatures on the face of the country's leader shown on that note. The defaced portrait clearly indicated the lecturer's dislike for the leader.
He gives the note to the student and tells him that he can go buy anything with it.
`But this note is now worthless,' says the student. `It has been damaged. I can't buy anything with it.'
`Well... let's just try and see how ingenious you are,' the professor responds.
`Is there something to be learned from this?' the student asks.
`If you manage to part with this money by buying something, call me when the note makes its way back to you,' the professor replies.
They both leave the cafe and the student starts thinking on how he can use the defaced note to buy something. He decides to try at a fruit vendor. He buys six-dinar worth of fruits and hands over six one-dinar notes to the seller. Within the folded notes is the one with the defaced portrait. If the seller spots the worthless note, the student plans to pretend ignorance and replace it with another one.
The seller flicks through the folded notes and nods his okay. Phew, the student thought... my strategy works.
A month later, the student takes a taxi from the university back to his hostel. The fare is seven dinars. He hands over a 10-dinar note and slips the 3 dinar change the driver gives him straight into his shirt pocket.
Later that day, he prepares to wash his clothes and out comes three pieces of 1-dinar note from the shirt pocket. One of the three is the defaced note he had first given the fruit vendor. It has somehow made its way back to its starting point. The student remembers his professor's words and gave the senior man a call.
The lesson to be learnt here, says the professor, is that, whatever you do in life... one day you will get back the same in return. If you do slipshod work or put in half-hearted effort for others, the same will be done to you in the future. So, in anything that you do, please always do your best and with full sincerity.
Now... that indeed is a timely reminder to oneself.