Androcles and the Lion is one of Aesop's most famous fables. It is about a runaway slave who ran into a lion that had become hobbled by a thorn in its paw. Androcles removed the thorn, and they became friends. Not long afterwards, both Androcles and the lion were captured and sent to the Roman emperor's coliseum where lions and slaves fought to the death to entertain the wealthy. The lion, who hadn't eaten for days, entered the arena and approached a slave to devour him. The slave prepared to defend himself against the lion's attack. As chance would have it, the slave was none other than Androcles. The lion recognized Androcles and affectionately licked the hand of the slave who had taken out the thorn from this paw. This display of affection between man and beast so impressed the emperor that he freed the slave and released the lion into the wild. This story still conveys its truth to readers centuries after Aesop first wrote about reciprocated kindness.

Several weeks ago, I heard a 20th century version of Androcles and the Lion. I was having breakfast with my friend, Joe. I wrote about Joe and his coping with prostate cancer several weeks ago. A mutual acquaintance of ours came over to visit. Our friend is a retired high school track coach who is still affectionately called, "Coach." He asked how we were doing, and Joe told him about having prostate cancer. The coach recounted how he discovered his prostate cancer.

The coach had gone to his cardiologist for a check-up. The doctor, knowing that his patient ran every day and was in excellent shape asked the coach to do him a favor. The physician had just received a new treadmill for administering stress tests and needed someone to test the equipment in a simulated test. The coach volunteered to help in the shakedown run of the new treadmill. In appreciation for the coach's time, the doctor gave him a complete blood test for free.

Everything came back well within the normal range except the coach's PSA which is the test for prostate cancer. Fortunately, the coach's cancer was operable and is cancer-free years later. Had he not helped the cardiologist, his cancer would have gone on unnoticed for months and would have killed him. He shared his time, and his life was spared.

Life has a strange way of repaying acts of kindness with other acts of kindness. I am not suggesting that we go around doing good so that we will get rewarded down the road. However, I am saying that acts of kindness benefit the receiver, but more often than not, acts of generosity also benefit the giver.

Look around your world and decide where you can help someone by removing a thorn from that person's life. Whether or not your life is spared by this act of kindness, you will benefit from your good deed. You will know that you reduced someone's suffering.

Finally, know this: Androcles and the coach share something in common; they both were spared certain death. Who knows, you may be telling your version of Androcles and the Lion to someone in the not too distant future.