PERSONS ARE GIFTS
HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
For information regarding this book CLICK HERE
You do not need an expert in Human Resource Development to convince you that the ‘secret of success in life’ is the ability to interact with people – properly and effectively. Interaction means loving and being loved, giving and receiving, listening and responding. The fundamental requirement for proper and effective interaction is an attitude of "person-centredness" – where the main focus of your life and activity is the person, rather than things or even ideals.
You know you are person-centred in thought and action, if you possess one or several, if not all, of the following attributes and qualities of personality and behaviour: selflessness, humility, compassion, concern, empathy, service-mindedness....
"There you sit," Harry Lauder, the Scottish singer and comedian, used to taunt his audiences merrily, " – been side by side for two hours, and not one of you spoke to the fellow in the next seat!" Referring to this taunt, Donald Peattie remarked: "And few there were who, under that warmhearted influence, did not turn and speak to the stranger beside them.... It's as easy as that. A word, a smile, and the stranger at your elbow may become an interesting friend. All through life we deny ourselves stimulating fellowship because we are too proud or too afraid to unbend." We prefer contemplating the tips of our noses!
If your living is person-centred living, it means you have learned to treat no one as a ‘stranger’; everyone is your brother or sister in this our global family. Nikos Kazantzakis, the well-known Greek writer encountered a person-centred person once, and the impact lasted all his life. While visiting the island of Crete, Nikos one day saw an elderly woman carrying a basket of figs. As she passed by him, she laid down the basket, picked out two beautiful figs and presented them to the author. Nikos asked her, "Do you know me, old lady?" She looked at him in amazement and replied, "No, by boy. Do I have to know you to give you something? You are a human being, are you not? So am I. Isn't that enough?"
The basic attitude for extending ourselves to another person is "fellow-feeling" – brotherhood and sisterhood. It is the firm conviction that humanity is family, that my ‘neighbour’ is my brother or sister, whatever her or his colour, caste, creed, country... or convictions, concerns, and credibility.
The stories in this section capture the essential spirit of person-centredness. They are neither exhaustive not exclusive, only succinct illustrations of the depth and reach of the theme. Do not read them cursorily or for mere entertainment. They are meant to instruct and provoke further reflection. So, STOP and THINK!
The curiosity-ridden mind will be tempted
to rationalize: I will read all the stories as quickly as I can, then do a
second round for reflection. Feel free to exercise your responsibility. However,
bear in mind this fact: when you read a story the first time, something
impresses you call it ‘love at first sight’, if you please. Psychologically
speaking, it is beneficial to stay with that ‘something’ till you are
satisfied that you can articulate it, have got a hold on it, before you move on.
You can then be sure it will be ingrained deep in your memory and surface
whenever a relevant need arises, where it can be applied in good measure.
1. PERSONS ARE PRECIOUS
One of the main principles of person-centredness is: persons are more important than things. Persons are unique; they can never be replaced; things can.
When your priorities are proper, you will automatically communicate to every one you come across – by your very attitudes – the singular though often silent message: "You are more precious to me than anything else in this world."
This is a principle that caring parents and teachers, as well as those in authority, need to have and to bear in mind constantly, because of the innumerable opportunities that crop up daily by which to practice it.
Below are a string of stories that highlight this principle. They are grouped under certain categories. "Possessions" and "Wealth" must take second place in person-centred dealings. "Presence" – that is, being there for someone, physically, is an indication of how you value a person, over your other involvement. "Priorities" determine your dealings with persons, as do "Preoccupations": Is the focus yourself, your ideas... or the other? The stories will lead you to deep reflection on your life.
The Brand-new Car
When a client was asked by an insurance company to describe exactly the circumstances of an accident he was involved in, the confused driver explained: "I can’t really say. We hit each other at the same time."
Such was not the case for Anita. While driving her brand new car, she took a wrong turn at a crossing and rammed into a stationary truck. Completely shaken, she approached the trucker who looked on in shock, and apologized for the damages. She said she would show him her registration papers for the necessary legal action.
As she was talking to the man, her mind suddenly flashed the image of her husband Daniel. She felt every part of her body shaking. The car had been on the road for barely a fortnight. How could she face Danny now? Wouldn’t he flare up, and justifiably so, when she confessed that it was all her fault that their newly acquired prized possession was ruined?
She had to literally struggle to open the
car door. With trembling hand she reached for the glove compartment to get the
documents. As the lid popped open, a slip of paper fell out. She decided it was
not anything important, but on an impulse she picked it up and unfolded it.
There was something written in her husband's distinctive hand. Curious, she
screwed her eyes to find out what it contained. The moment she read the note,
her trembling ceased, her tears evaporated. She breathed a sigh of relief and
even managed a slight smile. For the note read:
The Exquisite Crockery
It was a joyous occasion. Every member of the family and a host of special friends had gathered on the lawns of the bungalow to celebrate the parents’ wedding anniversary. As would be expected, the mother had brought out her best crockery, reserved only for occasions such as these.
There was a tray full of used tea-cups, made of fine china with exquisite designs on them, lying on a side table. The mother signaled one of her daughters and requested her to carry it over to the kitchen. The daughter immediately obliged, but in her hurry to get the job done, she missed a step while entering the house. The crockery spilled over the tray and crashed on the floor.
The girl was stunned. Her mother would kill her now, she thought, shaking with nervousness. There were tears in her eyes as she quickly collected the broken bits into the tray and went to the kitchen. Though terrified, she decided that she had to tell her mother. Putting on a brave front she went up to her mother and confessed how she had broken the treasured crockery.
To her utter surprise her mother remained calm. With a reassuring smile on her face she simply asked, "Are you hurt?"
When she replied she wasn’t, the mother
said, "Then I’m not worried, dear. I can replace the crockery, but I can’t
Excerpts from Chapter Seven: Paying The Price
One who is genuinely person-centred expresses in action the conviction that "You are so important, I will do anything to prove my love for you -- whatever the price!" This could even mean, in extreme cases, laying down one's life for someone. In ordinary life, there are varied degrees in which one must 'die to oneself' in order to bring 'life' to another person. Those who do so, quietly, are the 'unsung heroes' we encounter in life...
The Brave Student
Wally Lamb, author of the best-sellers She's Come Undone and This Much Is True, writes that the most significant thing he ever learned in school happened not when he was a student by a high school teacher, about twenty years ago.
Between classes one day in the outdoor smoking area at the high school where Lamb was teaching, some students started an ugly game. They circled a retarded boy and pitched their spare change at him, taunting him and calling him all kinds of ugly names. Unaware that he was the object of his peers' scorn and ridicule, the boy happily picked up and pocketed the coins as they ricocheted off him and landed at his feet. The former high school teacher recalls:
"By the time I happened on the scene, the circle was five or six students deep and the coins were being fired at hurtful, hateful velocities. The crowds cheered each stinging contact made.. I attempted t break through and stop this sickening spectacle," Lamb recalls, "but a 15-year-old girl beat me to it." Entering the circle, the girl threw her arm around the victim and led him out of the firing line, despite the coins, taunts and four-letter words now being hurled at her...
The first part of Persons Are Gifts contains the chief characteristics of person-centred living: each of you is a unique 'gift' – given and received. The second part is a gallery-display of the variety of persons you encounter in daily life. It instructs you to maintain your person-centred convictions in the face of opposition and challenges.
There are scores of stories that illustrate the different themes. Each story evokes a positive response, challenging you to deeper reflection, motivating you to action, enhancing your attitude of compassion.
Teachers and students, preachers and writers, parents and adolescents, superiors and subordinates, those in the helping profession: counsellors, doctors, nurses... every person in any situation that involves people, will benefit from this book. That includes everybody, young and old, jovial and serious, healthy and infirm. Persons are Gifts is indeed an interesting guide for person-centred living: easy to follow, light-hearted and motivational. (From the Back Cover)