Travel To Grow

Understanding The World Through Travel

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Jun '11

What to do when your feeling down

Like anyone, sometimes I can get a little down.

Sometimes there’s a good reason for it, and sometimes there isn’t. The real question is, what should you do about it? If its a situation that you can take some sort of action to fix, then go for it, take action, make some changes. Other times it’s not so simple, maybe there’s nothing you can do about your situation, and perhaps you don’t even know why your feeling down in the first place.

That was the case with me the other day. I was feeling down for no good reason, I didn’t really know why, and I didn’t really care. I just felt mildly depressed, and the truth is I didn’t even feel like cheering myself up. For some reason it felt as if wallowing in my blue feeling was the only thing that I should do. Logically I knew I could probably cheer myself up but it was almost as if I didn’t even want to feel better.

I think these are the times when your emotions kind of feel like a drug. You feel addicted to them and you don’t really want them to go away even though you know the alternative is better. So there I sat on some stairs in Guilin, with my head resting on my fist, looking out into the world I wasn’t happy in, feeling miserable.

Just at that time an old lady walked up to me with a huge heavy looking bag over her shoulder. She had a back problem and was bent over at the waist, almost at a 90-degree angle and walked slowly under the weight of what she carried. While I should have thought something along the lines of “well at least I have my health to be happy about, not like this poor woman” instead my thoughts said “oh great, here comes an annoying beggar to bother me for money.”

The lady walked up to me and held out her hand, and just as I was about to turn away I noticed that she simply wanted to collect the empty water bottle I was holding. She was one of the ladies that made their away around town collecting hundreds of plastic bottles in order to trade them in for enough to get by. I handed the bottle to her and expected her to then ask me for some change, but she didn’t, and instead she thanked me twice… and with a really sincere, appreciative look in her eyes and walked away.

I felt a stroke of admiration, this lady has serious health problems, but instead of sitting down on the street and begging for money like so many others in China she trucks on, and carries heavy bags of what she collects around the city, working for herself to get by. I sat there a little stunned as I watched the lady slowly walk away carrying her heavy load with her.

“I want to do something nice for this lady,” I thought.

She put her bags down next to a building and hobbled down the street looking for more bottles to collect. I realized if I wanted to make this woman happy I couldn’t just go give her some money, as she might feel insulted since she works hard for every penny she gets without being a beggar. Instead I had to think of a way to give her what she needed without her knowing she received any charity. I formulated my plan.

I waited for the lady to enter a small ally before I made my move. I sneaked over to where her heavy bags were and took some money out of my wallet. I lifted up the corner of one of her bags and slid the money underneath, and ran back to the stairs before being seen.

For the next 10 minutes I sat there with absolute focus waiting for the lady to return. My mind was clear of everything as I waited in excited anticipation. Eventually she made her way back to the bags. I stood up with excitement ready to see if she would find the money or not. I went behind a pillar for a better view. After 1 more minute of resting she picked up her heavy bags, then stopped. She reached down and grabbed the money I had hidden, and although her faced was turned away from me and I couldn’t see her, I imagined a big *lucky* smile shine upon her face.

The lady had found more money in that lucky second than she would likely find all day. I imagined the rest of her day would be easier. Her bags wouldn’t feel so heavy, there would be a lightness in her step because she had luckily stumbled upon some money. It must have felt like the universe was smiling on her. I felt great.

I would never see that woman again,  never receive her thanks, or even see her smile but it didn’t matter. I felt like I did something good for someone less fortunate than me, and it didn’t contain any of the usual gratitude, which surprisingly made it feel really really good! The depression I felt earlier in the day was a faded memory. I was refreshed and renewed, the rest of my day felt sunny.

So there you have it. When your feeling down, instead of trying to make yourself feel better, which can be difficult or which can even feel undesirable… instead make someone else feel good. Help cheer someone else up, or help someone that needs you. Lending a hand to someone less fortunate than you can give you a wonderful feeling, and if you make it into a fun event like I did it can completely lift your spirits.

Until next time, feel good!

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  • Huangjinjin11

    I still remember the first time I hug a bottle collecting lady in beijing, the smile on her face is the brightest thing Ive seen.;)

  • Jo

    Awesome!! really good plan! Thank you for sharing this.