It is really not how much we give or do but how we give and do

I was outside a train station on a very cold day waiting for a friend to pick me up in his car when I noticed a  young person about 18 years old approaching different people asking for a dollar. It was a well rehearsed line about  needing a ticket home but as no one bought it.  Just as I was hoping that she won’t come to me, she did. I only had a five dollar note on me but decided that she probably needed it more than me.  Five dollars was not such a big amount to give away but what deterred me a little was the thought that all those who had refused her were probably thinking what a sucker I was.  Yes, obviously it was a con-job and I estimate that this young person made about $5 an hour with her routine. It was hard work though.  I watched her approach a few other people with no success and after a few minutes, she came back to me to say thank you again and went into the train station.

I was a sucker but you must believe that I was a happy one otherwise it would have been a painful experience for me and it was not.  Life is harsh for many around us and as we close the year, it is timely to reflect if the help we rendered  did not actually make things worse. It is really not how much we give or do but how we give and do.  The conditions we impose in “organised” help tend to reinforce in people a sense of failure.  A question to ask is whether these people have really failed or has society failed them? I was told by a sociologist that I am a conservative to believe in family, community and society and the liberal view is for helping systems to replace their function. Hmm... always thought of myself as being a little more on the liberal side but if being conservative means preserving families, strengthening communities and bonding society, I will go with it. 

Finally, whatever thoughts we may find in our reflections, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves  because in the words of Rabindranath Tagore, “ If you shut the door to all errors, truth will be shut out.”

Wishing one and all a peaceful and meaningful year-end filled with the warmth of family and friends.


Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore

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Comment by Phil on January 13, 2012 at 3:35pm

Thank you for the story....

...but thank you also for your quotations...

...and thank you for introducing me to Rabindranath Tagore.


Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on January 3, 2012 at 1:44pm

Hi Gerard, I like this -  “ If you shut the door to all errors, truth will be shut out.” the space to try and discover new truth is the exciting space of insight and inspiration.  I hope in this increasingly templated world, we can each find the space to be different and be accepted! 

Parizad from Singapore, actually, once gave me a small piece of embroidery from Pakistan which had one corner left incomplete. Apparently the  person doing it leaves it so, as no human being can claim completeness. I was deeply impressed, my reflections went idea is complete and " correct".. there always has to be a space to hear another view. ... I cannot claim to be there yet, but I go back to the thought often!!!

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on December 30, 2011 at 5:36pm

Thanks for your blog. I loved the quotes from Rabindranath Tagore. Happy new year! I invite you to Global Knowledge Fair in India in Nov 2012 which will bring together those who apply SALT or are interested in SALT.

Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on December 30, 2011 at 4:38pm

" It is really not how much we give or do but how we give and do".  

Yes, and somehow, the how is linked to the why...

Many  thanks for your reflections Gerard. Looking forward to see you very soon in 2012.



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