We are now three weeks into our journey of living in another culture. So far, the journey as been good and enlightening. We are learning a lot about the people of this country. They are friendly, helpful, and kind.
Two weekends ago we took the opportunity to play the role of tourists for a couple of days before Kimberly started school. Before we left on the trip around the Northland of New Zealand, we were told of the beauty of the countryside we could expect to see. Places to stop and sights to look for were pointed out to us. We loaded up our car and headed out in the early morning with great expectations.
Day one of the journey was nearly a wash. No pun intended – but it literally was washed out. Due to heavy clouds, steady rain and, at times, driving rain – the beautiful views we had been told to look for were mostly obscured. We did not bother to get out of the car at one stop which required a short walk; we didn’t want to have three soggy people in the car for the rest of the day!
During this first day of our journey we got lost; actually, we were lost more than once, and we drove for miles not certain where we were going. (We were in a very rural area and weren’t seeing many people or vehicles!) One of those times, driving on an unpaved road, we flagged down a car and asked the elderly woman for directions. When we told her where we were trying to go, a priceless smile broke out on her face. I honestly think that if she could have broken out in hysterical laughter without embarrassing us, she would have. But she was kind, friendly and helpful.
She started out by telling us where we needed to go, but then, even though on an errand of her own, she offered to lead us. We turned around and began to follow her. While driving alone, this kind, helpful lady stopped, waited for us to come alongside her, and rather than simply giving us directions, she decided to take us to a junction that would get us back on track. She said, “Follow me; I will take you to the turn off.” It was miles passed where she was going to do her own errand.
The second day of our tour we were scheduled to be on a boat trip for several hours and needed a place to park where we would not have to pay an arm and a leg – or get our car towed. We asked a man who was loading supplies into a pickup truck, and he explained to us where we could park.
As we drove off to find the parking area, the man got into his vehicle, pulled ahead of us and motioned us to follow him. He led us to the parking area where we could safely (and cheaply) leave our car while we are on the boat. He waved goodbye and went on his way.
These two experiences reminded me of a sign I see at my local Home Depot: “This is a no pointing zone.” This means that when a customer asks an associate where to find something, they don’t point them to where it is they take them there.
The two experiences also reminded me how easy it is for me to just tell someone how to do something or where to find something rather than showing them or taking them to it. I don’t know about you, but my default response is to avoid being inconvenienced by other people’s needs. I will help you when it is comfortable and convenient for me. I am that way with my own family at times.
These experiences have reminded me that genuine help means personal involvement – and, at times, being inconvenienced. I think this is what being friendly, helpful and kind looks like.
What kind of helper are you? I am working on being the kind of helper who is willing to become personally involved and does not mind being inconvenienced when helping someone, whether a lost stranger or family member I see every day.
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Photo from the Carrims Northland road trip.