I’d just finished a gym session in Taiwan and was making my way back to my apartment through some rather persistent rain. It came as a welcome relief from the sweltering heat that we’d been facing for weeks on end and it was also a cooling agent for my over exuberantly flushed face; fresh from my work out. Feeling the pump, I decided to stop off at the local outdoor jungle gym and put in a little extra work. Chin-ups were the order of the day – and with that I abandoned my wheelchair nearby and set out to round up my days exercise.
As the rain continued to pour I was approached by two ladies and pretty quickly one of the ladies tried to usher me indoors away from the relentless downpour. I tried to reiterate through my limited amount of Chinese that all was well and that I was actually enjoying being out in the refreshing cloudburst.
My restricted Chinese continued to be kind to me as I picked up that she wanted to know if I’d had dinner already, to which I told her I had not. She then went on to ask what I liked to eat and I was then able to tell her that my favourite dish in Taiwan was actually just the simple fried rice, served in the traditional Taiwanese way.
Without a moments hesitation the lady who had led the conversation reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a 500NTD note. That’s equivalent to about $20. My immediate reaction was to reject her offer, politely, of course. I felt embarrassed to be taking such a hefty amount of cash from a complete stranger. We had a brief stand off where she continued to vigorously insist before suddenly – something dawned on me.
“Anthony, what are you doing? Just let her give you the money” I thought to myself. As if out of nowhere, my attitudes towards the situation completely shifted. Here I was presented with a lady who quite clearly wanted to do something nice for somebody else, and there I was fighting hard to try and stop her. Why not just accept and as a spin-off; enable her to then spend the rest of the day, week or maybe even month, feeling good about what she did?
I was later reminded that the Lunar New Year was approaching and that by accepting her gift I had actually done a great thing for her, as old Chinese traditions dictate that when you do good for others, good will then come unto you.
It’s a message which can be transferred in all aspects of life. Sure, there may be times where accepting an offer is just not on your radar, but it’s important to remember that even in these instances, it’s crucial that you decline in a humble and gracious manner, with a positive ‘thank-you’ to the person offering, as a way of letting them know that they’re appreciated. I don’t think I need to reiterate the fact that there is enough heartache in the world as it is, so we could do with some extra kindness.
It also leads me on to an interesting phenomenon that I have came across in New Zealand, which is that New Zealand folk, on the whole, are extremely reluctant to offer assistance to a person with a disability. When chatting to a Wellingtonian over coffee, we discussed how I found it peculiar that when pushing my wheelchair up an extremely steep embankment, no one offered to help. I should clarify that I did not actually want nor need any help, but based on experiences in pretty much every other country I’ve been to, I did expect an offer to occur at some stage. My friend explained that it all stems from a shift in general attitudes in the late 80’s, after a series of stories circulated of disabled individuals become irate when receiving an unwanted offer of a helping hand. I empathise with the frustration that can occur when you’re just trying to go about your daily routine, but come on, seriously? Are you really getting mad because someone was kind enough to ask if you were alright?
For me, 99% of the time I’ll always say ‘no thank-you’ when someone offers to push me in my wheelchair. But I also take the time to let them know it was extremely kind of them to offer and give them the biggest smile that I can. You should never try to make someone feel small when their only misdemeanor is wanting to help you. It all interlinks with this notion of it being equally as important to learn how to receive as it is to learn what it means to give.
The moment you shoot someone down or bluntly refuse their random act of kindness, you’re chipping away a little more of that person’s confidence and you’re inevitably ensuring that person will probably think twice next time before making the same offer to another person. That’s unfortunate – because the next person they would have approached might have genuinely appreciate their help.
Finally, it’s important to learn how to receive because in the end, it’ll more than likely motivate you to do follow-on acts of generosity. My own personal example of this comes from my time spent backpacking around South East Asia in my wheelchair and embracing all the kind love and support bestowed upon me whilst travelling from country to country. I’ve since taken these positive vibes and harnessed them into my own projects – such as the offer of free travel which I publicized heavily on my blog. This summer I am taking one complete stranger on a road-trip around Europe and I honestly cannot wait to give some good karma back to the universe.