We at Etiquette Central constantly focus on the need to be kind to others – but there is the other side, the need to let others take care of you.
Etiquette tries to create a balance between a person and the universe while knowing that balance is impossible. You can’t ever make it right – you can’t ever know what to do – you can’t ever fix yourself or anyone else (pax Coldplay) permanently.
All you can do is get up each morning and try to walk through the world without making yourself or other people miserable, in which ever way works best for you. And sometimes that means allowing others to take care of you.
One friend tips, that’s his coping mechanism. He doesn’t donate to any kind of charity but if you work in a service industry and get anywhere near him, he will hand you cash. Waitstaff get 20% and he always leaves cash in hotel rooms for cleaners.
One friend went on a bike trip to a country in financial difficulties. Others made fun of this, saying that the group of 4 people should have spent their vacation doing service projects in the country. On their last night, the group handed over all their clothes to be cleaned, then went out to dinner. In the morning, they packed up their bikes, put on clothes and sunglasses, tossed their underwear, cell phones and toothbrushes in backpacks, paid the bill and went to the airport. They left everything else in their hotel room: all the cleaned clothes, sandals, sneakers, extra sunglasses, power bars, maps, bike repair kits, biking shoes, first aid kits and all their cash.
Never assume your way to help the world should be everyone’s way. And never assume because you have more money, that you are always the one who gives.
One night I came home to find my outside light was burnt out. Having darkness surrounding the house feels uncomfortable, but the light is set up high and can only be reached by a tall ladder which I did not want to climb. So I called my fix-it man to come over, but when I walked around to where the light switch was, I realized that it had simply been accidently switched off by the gardener.
I apologized to the fix-it guy, embarrassed that I had called him, and offered him the usual amount for coming to help. He refused. I insisted. He refused and I, unwillingly, gave in. He had his amour propre – a better expression than ‘self-respect’ or ‘self-esteem’ for in the French, you have the word ‘love’ which is the foundation of the correct idea that you MUST love yourself MORE than money (or fame or…). The fundamental question is always: does this action help create the person I want to be?
He needed the money – I was happy to give but his conception of himself was that he was not a man who took payment without doing work. That was more important that the cash. And I had to respect who he saw himself to be and affirm the lesson of: accept kindness.