Helping Other People...
Dr. Ben Kim
years ago, I found myself in a beautiful town in the San Francisco
Bay Area for a year-long residential internship. I had long wanted
to live in the Bay Area, and having just completed two years of running
a clinic in the arctic of Alaska, I had a little nest egg of savings
and felt as free as a bird. Everything I owned fit neatly into my
trusty Honda Civic.
located a small Korean church where I made some wonderful friends
and found ways to be useful. I had spent much of my free time in Alaska
reading through a small mountain of self help books, and felt like
I was almost floating around with peaceful energy, looking to be of
service and show compassion wherever I could.
was one family at the church that I felt especially moved to help.
I decided that the best way would be to purchase fresh fruits and
vegetables and leave them on their porch every Friday. I did this
anonymously for a few weeks, and even after they caught me delivering
a few cases of food one Friday afternoon, I continued with it because
they expressed thanks and didn't seem to feel awkward about me wanting
completing my residential internship, I moved back to Toronto, and
several months later, I heard from this family. The mother explained
that they had moved to another town and were in desperate need of
a house. In short, she asked if I could "lend" her $10,000 for a down
was that I didn't have that kind of money to lend to anyone. But more
than anything else, I was disappointed by her request. Her and her
husband were able-bodied people who, in my eyes, were capable of providing
for their two children. If they couldn't afford to purchase a home,
they could certainly earn enough to rent adequate housing for their
them down gently and apologetically, as I had no interest in making
them feel ashamed. But I turned them down after thinking things through
and deciding that they were looking to take advantage of me. Being
a young doctor who eagerly helped their family when I was out in California,
I guess she assumed that I had plenty of money and would jump to send
her some funds.
during my time in California, I met a visiting student from Korea
who had a wonderful energy about her. In getting to know this student
over a few months, I discovered that she desperately wanted to stay
in the area for another half year to continue with her language studies.
Because I was still in the mindset of wanting to be of service wherever
I could, I impulsively concocted an unlikely story about having found
a scholarship for her through a friend of mine back east. I even had
her read a couple of books (on natural health, of course) and write
essays on them as a part of the application that I whipped up to keep
my financial involvement anonymous.
her extra six months of study were almost up, she nonchalantly asked
me to help her book her return flight home, as she didn't have a credit
card. I did this with a bit of a sinking feeling in my heart, as I
suspected that she didn't intend to pay for her ticket. Unfortunately,
my instinct was correct, and being one to shy away from confrontation
at all costs, I didn't say a word. I did, however, decide that I would
never again so easily help a non-family member with a large sum of
the thing: it took these and a few other similar experiences as a
young adult for me to really understand the following Korean proverb:
save someone from drowning, he'll ask you why you didn't save his
bag as well.
with some people, when you help them, they'll ask for more help.
my experience has been that there are some people in our world who
truly don't mind taking advantage of others. Does this seem obvious
to you? If so, then good - I'm glad you already know this. Because
it wasn't obvious to me when I walked on youthful clouds of idealism,
and was looking to give, give and then give some more.
a life lesson that they don't teach in public school. Decent people
rarely ask for help, even when they desperately need it. They'll grind
themselves to a nub trying to take care of themselves. They'll wash
dishes and do away with all unnecessary expenses in their lives before
they ask for charity.
reach out and find a way to have decent people accept some assistance,
they'll find a way to make sure that you understand what your action
means to them. And it's almost never just in words because words don't
mean much a lot of the time.
be clear in stating that I earnestly believe in being giving and generous.
I'm just smarter about it now than I was in my mid-twenties. I've
learned that whenever possible, it's best to give anonymously, and
of course, only to those who clearly want to help themselves and be
generously of our time, talents, and money is to bless ourselves along
with the recipients of our gifts - this is no secret. But I firmly
believe that we must learn to be discerning in how we give and who
we give to. Ultimately, we are stewards of all that we temporarily
own, and a good steward is careful in making decisions on how resources
under his or her care are used.
are life lessons on giving that I plan on sharing with our boys when
they're a bit older. When that time comes, I'll start by letting them
know that if they decide to help someone, they should be prepared
to fetch that someone's bag out of the water. :)
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