Thursday, June 24, 2010

Five Lessons About How To Treat People

1. First Important Lesson - "Know The Cleaning Lady"

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. Second Important Lesson - "Pickup In The Rain"

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.

A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3. Third Important Lesson - "Remember Those Who Serve"

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "50¢," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "35¢!" she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4. Fourth Important Lesson - "The Obstacles In Our Path"

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand - "Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition."

5. Fifth Important Lesson - "Giving When It Counts"

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save her."

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Made a mistake? Own it

So, can you stand being told you did wrong? Or, do you wait for life to teach you lessons?

If you can divide people into categories based on behaviour, two types you may have come across are — those willing to admit mistakes, and those who refuse to acknowledge they went wrong.

The first will readily agree when you point out they erred and may even seek advice on making amends; or, at least be open to discussion. The second however will cut you out, change the topic or walk out on you. We have all come across people who have a pathological distaste to even mild criticism.

Here we are of course assuming a modicum of intelligence that allows you to analyse a situation dispassionately, a bit of sensitivity, a degree of objectivity and a whole load of courage!

If the one who resists correction is a relative or friend, you feel helpless and frustrated because as a bystander you may be acutely aware of where the problem lies. However, too much insistence may lead to a crack in the relationship. Under such circumstances, should you persist in continuing to point that finger or sheath it in the interest of harmony and let Destiny take its course?

Most would consider it prudent to take a backseat at this juncture, but would that be right? The more sincere amongst us would go on and on with our warnings, especially if the fallout is likely to be unpalatable. You wouldn't want your dear ones to suffer, even if due to their own fault! Others may consider it wiser to recognise the point beyond which no outsider can do anything, so strongly has a person's own will power, mind or Destiny taken over.

Of course, a lot depends on the manner in which you point out a mistake. Instead of an all-out aggressive attack, most people would be far more receptive to mild suggestions and advice.

Sooner or later, even though you may be reluctant to hear others point out your mistakes, the fallout of your actions will be the first and strongest indicator that perhaps there was something that you didn't do quite right. Unless you are a total slave to ego, such a situation leads to introspection, analysis and insights. That's how we grow as humans.

It requires courage to admit you were wrong and it's normally the weak amongst us who cannot bear the burden or guilt of blame. That is not to say that the person pointing the finger is always right, but courage lies in being able to discuss and analyse your methods and decisions even under the most trying circumstances, prepared to admit you could be wrong.

So can you stand being told you did wrong? Or, do you wait for life to teach you lessons? And once you do realise you may have gone wrong, do you have the guts to set right the mistake you made? What if you overcharged someone though they kept insisting you were doing so? What if you underpaid a poor man? Or, screamed at someone innocent? Would you be brave enough to make amends?

Now that requires a different sort of courage, to make amends once you admit you made a mistake. Most people would instinctively not want to be troubled by guilt pangs; so they bury the thought and refuse to meet their own eyes for a few days because eyes tell you the real state of your soul.

Many years ago, a friend on the verge of marriage told me how her fiancé made a tell-all pact with her. His candour and desire to be brutally honest delighted her. Smelling a rat, I warned her to be wary, saying if nothing else, go by your understanding of men in general, go by reams of literature on the subject, such as Thomas Hardy's Tess of D'Urbervilles and yes, also by the wisdom passed down by generations. Don't tell all, even though all in the case of a girl like her from a highly protected environment couldn't have been much! She never paid heed.

Unfortunately, her husband turned out to be exceedingly jealous and in later years, used her innocent confessions as excuses for his compulsive infidelity!

Agreed, an easy way to learn would be to blindly accept the wisdom of generations; to learn about life through others' experiences rather than making your own mistakes. If you start where another left off, you would have that much of a headway. But most of us grow up with the peer pressure of ignoring hand-me-down wisdom. Each generation wants to take their own decisions, make their own mistakes and learn from them. Our instinct is to question and revolt, and do quite the opposite if just to prove we are way ahead of time to our parents!

Well, certainly no harm in experimenting with life so long as you are prepared for the fallout. So long as the stakes aren't so high as to be destructive, one is well within one's rights to say, it's my life and I have the right to make my own mistakes and learn from them!

And truth be told, there is a certain charm in making your own bed and lying on it...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Paradox of our Time!

The paradox of our time in history is that...

We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers.
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less.
We buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families.
More conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense.
More knowledge, but less judgment.
More experts, but more problems.
More medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly,
laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly,
stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little,
watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life;
We've added years to life, not life to years.

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We've conquered outer space, but not inner space;
We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less;
We plan more, but accomplish less;
We've learned to rush, but not to wait;
We have higher incomes, but lower morals;
We have more food, but less appeasement;

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.

We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure,but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference, or to just hit delete...