“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
One of the amazing things about rural life and being on the road is that you have a lot of time to reflect. Self-reflection is crucial to personal growth, but it is only effective when it’s honest. One of the realisations I recently came to about myself is that I am the person who gives people fishing rods but not fish. So, what exactly does that even mean?
Imagine walking by a lake. You have a bucket of freshly caught fish and can already taste the amazing meal you’re about to make at home. On your way back to the truck, you spot one of your friends staring wistfully at the lake.
“What are you up to?” you ask.
He responds, “I would really like some fish.”
The Fish People would reach right into their buckets and give the friend a fish. They might even invite him to dinner and prepare it for him. After all, the last thing they want is to see their friend miss out on delicious fish when they have more than enough to share.
I am not this friend.
The Fishing Rod
In the scenario above, I am the person who brings all my fish home and puts it in the fridge. I decide to delay my delicious meal and instead go digging in the garage for that nice fishing rod I love but no longer use. I then drive back to the lake and give it to my friend who wants fish so badly.
I will even sit with the friend and teach him how to fish. Whatever we catch at that point is his to do whatever he likes with. I then go home, make my dinner, and enjoy a glass of wine.
To some people, this might seem cruel. Why not just give the friend a fish? It would irk my soul to do that unless I felt he was really starving.
Before you tell me I am a villain in disguise, look a little closer. It would have cost me nothing to give my friend one fish out of my bucket. Instead, I sacrificed my early dinner, a nice fishing rod, and my time to ensure my friend can catch his own fish going forward.
Tangerines and Cell Phones
I recently noticed this about myself after helping out with two specific scenarios. The first problem involved a friend whose phone had begun to malfunction. I was about to upgrade to a new cellphone, so I gave him my old one. The phone worked perfectly and barely even had cosmetic damage. He’s not super techie, so when I gave him the phone, he told me he needed help setting it up.
I could have taken the phone from him and set it up myself in 5 minutes. Instead, I spent about an hour walking him through the process of setting it up himself. During that time, he became increasingly frustrated, so much so that Shadow got scared and went to go hide. Shadow does not like raised voices, especially when it’s from a man.
Sure, it cost me an hour of my time on a workday and I had to deal with someone else’s frustration, but guess what? Now, he knows how to set up a phone when he moves from one to the next and he’ll never need me to do it for him again.
Similarly, I have a friend with a disability who can no longer peel and eat tangerines. I learned this after offering him some of the several dozen I had brought home. I could have simply peeled a few and brought it to him. Instead, I took the time to learn how to peel tangerines with the same limitations he had.
I then showed him how to do it. Now, he can peel and eat his own tangerines.
I’m not quite sure what this says about me as a person, but for better or worse, this is who I am. I’d like to think it’s better to teach a man to fish than to give him the fish, but I can certainly see where some people might think it would have been better to give the fish and be on my way.
What about you? Which category do you fall into? Hopefully, you’re not the person who simply goes home to eat your fish because it’s not your problem and not your business!