Throughout my time cycling to Bhutan I felt astounded on countless occasions at people’s capacity to give. People wanted to help and I was given food, water, bike parts and advice, and much more, money even. People would often invite me into their homes and I would eat with their families. Sometimes I was even offered a bed for a night or two. On many occasions those that gave didn’t seem to have very much themselves, at least not materially, but they still gave generously and gladly. It often seemed impossible to not accept.
People like to give and they feel happy when they do
At first when this started happening it was extremely challenging. It puzzled me. It was not what I was used to. I sometimes felt awkward. I didn’t understand why people gave so freely to me, seemingly without conditions, and particularly when I didn’t seem to desperately need the thing that was being given.
The first thing I realised was that perhaps one of the best gifts a person can give is to simply allow others to give. People are often quick to refuse help, even when they actually really need it, and they don’t recognise the importance for the other to give. It can be a very connecting experience to give and receive. I sense that people refuse gifts because they worry it may somehow oblige them to that person. Though I rarely felt there was any expectation attached to what was offered.
The real gift
I always felt like I wanted to give something back, for my own peace of mind and, I suppose, some sense of fairness. Sometimes I felt a bit guilty receiving all these wonderful gifts. Though it never ceased to amaze and humble me, it eventually became such a normal part of my journey to be, for example, invited into someone’s home.
After a while it began to occur to me that whilst it may have been a regular occurrence for me it was not for the other most of the time. I realised that because I would often be in very remote places, the people living there had often never had a foreigner pass by on a bicycle before, let alone have the chance to invite them into their home. It dawned on me that sometimes just being fully present with another is gift enough.
In the final months I became comfortable that I, my presence, was ‘The Gift’. Much as their presence was actually their real gift to me. The offer of help really just seemed to be a conduit, if it was mutually acceptable, for opening up the possibility for that deeper exchange, which as humans most of us deeply crave.