Arriving home tonight from an 11-day international trip, I lifted my heavy bags into my trunk at the airport. It occurred to me that I’d schlepped these bags more than I cared to when help was not on the horizon. It made me appreciate the cheerful van drivers, bellmen and skycaps who did offer to hoist my bags.
I began to ruminate on the many things men — often strangers — do to lighten women’s burden’s. Not only luggage lifting, but I’ve been struck by how often men have gone out of their way to give directions or even walk me to my destination. Sure, some of them have been in a role at a hotel, but many have not. They were just helpful strangers.
I think the more we women are willing to accept their aid, the more willing men are to go out of their way. This has nothing to do with being a helpless woman. It has to do with being a grateful recipient to someone’s kindness. Did I need the hotel banquet staffer to escort me to the door of the ladies room? No. Pointing it out would have been sufficient. But I didn’t waive him off with an “I can find it,” instead allowing him to feel the satisfaction of completing his task.
Arriving in Manila at 5:30 a.m., I stopped at the airport information desk to ask about storing my luggage so I could catch a town tour during my 16-hour layover. Discovering there were no lockers and I couldn’t check my bags into my connecting airline for 14 hours, I had few alternatives. The young information desk clerk helped me see the most viable option was to rent a small room at the airport Day Lounge. I could lock my bags there, or take advantage of the bed and shower to rest during the long layover.
He could have given me directions, but instead opted to call a colleague to cover his desk and escort me. While navigating the labyrinth of elevators, security checkpoints and behind-the-scenes hallways, I was appreciative he’d taken the time. Several times he negotiated in Tagalog with Security and other gatekeepers. When we arrived at the nearly hidden Day Lounge I heaped thanks on him.
When a man offers assistance — whether it’s help with a heavy box or directions — do you accept readily? Or do you cut them off, saying, “I’ve got it”? If the latter, consider that you could actually give him a gift by accepting his offer. You both get to experience the generosity of the other.
That’s not to say you can’t offer to assistance, too. When I travel, I often see one in a party taking a picture of the other(s). I now make it a habit to offer to take a picture of everyone together. During this trip, a large military convention was in town. In the mall, military men from dozens of countries were enjoying the music and people watching. Cameras were flashing non-stop. As I came upon these groups, I made my offer. No one refused. I felt good for contributing to their memories by allowing the whole party to be in the pic. I felt like I’d connected to them in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. And who knows, maybe I left a positive impression of Americans in my wake.
The lesson is to not be stingy in either your receiving or your giving. Both are a gift. Be sure to express your appreciation. Even if you can heft your own bags yourself, thank you very much, allow a man to contribute to you.
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