MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I have come to recognize that EACH OF US greatly impacts the happiness of others — if we simply stop, listen and support others. However, it is a rare event, I believe, when we hear how our supportive actions actually have affected others. I wish to share one such story, and the gift that I received in hearing about its outcome.
I was walking the Annapurna trail in Nepal last fall. The trail is a 21 day hike through a huge gorge bordering the world’s highest peaks. Towns with several Guest Houses (called Tea Houses) are spaced about every 4 miles, so all us tourists end up staying in the same towns and same guest houses. Depending on the speed with which you walk, you meet up with the same people day after day, building stronger friendships as the trip progresses.
In the Tea Houses, everyone congregates in the dining areas, waiting usually for one hour or more as the basic, yet delicious, food is being prepared from scratch. It is during these times that you meet other travelers, make friends and talk about life’s goals, pitfalls, wishes and desires. It is the most fun and rewarding time of the trip.
In one such Tea House I overheard a woman from Alabama telling some Canadians how disappointed she was because she was overcharged for her trip by a travel agent in Kathmandu. She was paying $25 a day for the services of two Nepalese — a guide and a porter — when the going rate was $8 per day. In addition, she felt that her porter was more qualified than her guide and the resulting friction was unfair and she was frustrated at not being able to handle it.
As I turned my attention to this woman with the woeful stories, it happened that further worries were plaguing her: she was running out of the money she budgeted for her 6 month trip; she felt Kathmandu was a smoggy, annoying mess (it is!); she had “hated” traveling in India because it was dirty and poor and everyone begged; she might have to cut the trip short and return to Alabama where she had a good paying job and her savings — which were allotted for a graduate degree that she didn’t even know that she wanted.
After listening to her monologue (I got the regurgitated version of the story), I began to ask her questions about what it was that she actually wanted to see happen on this trip and in her life. I don’t believe anyone else she met during her 4 months of travel had ever stuck around very long to take an interest in her as a person because she was a real bummer to be around! Then with the most care and concern that I could muster, I asked her with a firmness and directness what it was she really wanted.
I spent an hour discovering an interesting person. I simply suggested that rather than worry about her schooling and career that she was not sure about anyway, that she ought to spend a portion of her substantial savings and enjoy the rest of her trip, take a greater part in directing the feud between her porters, change her attitude and not miss the magical events that were taking place around her every day high in the Himalayas.
We parted after dinner not to see each other again. About a week later in another town, I met another American woman and we shared notes on the neat people we had met on the trail. One such woman, I was told, was from Alabama and was particularly fun to be with because she was recently celebrating her decision to cancel her graduate education plans and extend her trip through Asia for several more months despite overspending money on her guide and porter!
I quizzed the American woman on how this change happened because my experience had been quite the opposite. I was told that the same Alabama woman had met a fellow American traveler the week before who had suggested she abandon her financial worries and start enjoying her trip since it was likely she was not going to return to Asia for awhile.
That was me! I was blessed with being given direct evidence that I was able to change a person’s attitude toward life simply by listening, asking the right questions and taking an interest in them
It is rare that you receive direct evidence like I did that you can affect the life of a complete stranger through an interest in them as a person.
By being conscious to those around you and how to make a difference in their lives, you can, and if you are lucky, you will learn to recognize the signs and clues that you are making a difference. I have trained myself to become aware of these little signs which is why I am sharing with you today. It is beyond wonderful.
I have become increasingly aware of how my actions affect others. I am looking for people with similar stories and experiences, because I have come to realize with the strongest conviction that everything is interconnected and the greater we act to lessen the burden of others, the greater our personal reward. As I have discovered, sometimes this reward comes in the here and now.
Please email, write or call me and I will share more of my realizations and I would very much enjoy hearing yours.
Copyrighted by Josh Gerak