The minute I stepped into the taxi, I knew something was wrong.
The interior of the taxi smelled a bit odd, and as the vehicle moved off, I wondered why it was going so slowly. I had just touched down at Changi from Kuala Lumpur yesterday and I was looking forward to dumping my bags at home.
But in a few minutes, I was wondering if I could even get home.
Firstly, why was the taxi driver seated at such an odd angle? His whole body was leaning to the left, and his head cocked at an angle. He didn’t seem to move, except for his left hand to change the gears, and his left leg for the clutch pedal.
The driver was still going very slowly (about 60kmh), although he was on the right-most lane. We got honked at and both of us gave a jolt in response.
Then he started straddling two lanes and got honked at again.
I saw a white sticker on the middle portion of his steering portion. It declared: “This vehicle has just been overhauled. For the next two weeks, do not drive beyond 80kmh”.
Wah lau, no wonder the taxi was making such funny noises too. It had been totally wrecked before. My heart continued to sink further as the taxi went dangerously near other vehicles on the PIE expressway.
Then I realised that the driver was disabled. His left hand was semi-paralysed and his whole body was stiff. Was he disabled by the previous accident? Or was the previous accident a result of his disability?
Two things went through my mind – should I SMS Goy to tell her I might not make it home? And should I get this guy to drop me off as soon as possible so I could take another cab.
In the end, I didn’t do anything but waited for the long agonising trip (thanks to his slow driving) to be over.
When my mum was recovering from breast cancer, she switched from driving a manual car to an auto gear car as her left hand was no longer strong. She was a proud woman, and insisted on working even though her health wasn’t good.
The taxi driver reminded me of my mum and I understood what I had to do.
I had to give him his space to do his work, to maintain his pride despite the real dangers he posed to his passengers and other drivers on the road. His physical capability was limited, but his will to eke out his own living was undeniable. He didn’t ask for pity (eg. put up a sign saying why passengers should be understanding of his condition), nor did he want to admit freely (he didn’t speak much).
Compare this man to so many other people who are able-bodied but approach their work in various ways.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working with solid teams (from PR and events agencies) in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as we rolled out the BlueTrack product launches in SEA. Despite their restricted budget and manpower resources, they gave their all and the results were great. I am deeply grateful to these teams from Edelman SG, Hill & Knowlton TH, Weber Shandwick Malaysia, Ino Arts, IN2 Malaysia and Tang from Thailand because they held themselves accountable for the results with great pride.
At the same time, I’ve also had grief with a few other individuals who really don’t get it on other fronts. Something goes terribly wrong because of their doing, they refuse to admit their wrongdoing (to even their own boss until I step in), and get all upset with me (on their blog, no less, without mentioning my name because they probably don’t dare to) when I have to correct things. Perhaps they are not even aware of the gravity of the mess they made, the things at stake, and the amount of damage control I had to do.
Unfortunately for people who want to gripe about me, I’ve been around too long to worry about my popularity in the workforce. Problem-solving on a big scale requires decisive action, not whining or bitching from a PC. And it’s never personal, but it’s just business for me.
Usually, I’d just move on. But one thing that kept me mulling on this issue and how I deal with problems, and also partially sparked off by the taxi driver incident, was – how do capable people deal with less capable people when things are not done right?
I don’t mean this just for myself, but for everyone who reads this and thinks he/she can do something better than another person in a particular thing/job/role/assignment/etc.
God is crystal clear on this: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
No matter how capable, able-bodied, intelligent or aware anyone is, everyone’s human, everyone has emotions and doesn’t want to be hurt by others. One of my worst and best traits is the ability to pinpoint people’s problems and find a viable solution.
Seen one way, I’m an above-average problem solver. Seen the other way, I’m just a guy who likes to criticise everything and hurt people’s feelings. Really depends on the mood and mindset of the other party, right?
Yet if one were to apply God’s principles, I’ve gotten it wrong. Subjectivity is an excuse for people who are not clear on their actions. I haven’t been reading the Bible too much lately, but with more time on my hands, I’ve gone back to read the verse my old friend Junyu once said would guide my life. It’s about asking for wisdom, and it’s from Proverbs Chapter 3. I’ve highlighted the more salient portions for today’s posting:
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
the man who gains understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the deeps were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble;
24 when you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being snared.
27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
"Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow"—
when you now have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse a man for no reason—
when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a violent man
or choose any of his ways,
32 for the LORD detests a perverse man
but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise inherit honor,
but fools he holds up to shame.
I’ve been asked constantly since I started work why I tend to help people at my own cost, when it’s not in my job description and it disrupts my work-life balance. And many times, I’ve gotten really upset with others (and myself) because even when I sacrifice much time and effort to help people, they don’t appear seek to help themselves nor do they learn to do better.
I’ve been advised to walk away when that happens. But if you take Prov 3 and read it literally, that is not God’s way. That is the corporate way, but it’s NOT God’s way. We have to do unto others, even if the others have no idea how we’re helping them. Because we cannot withhold good because often, we cannot judge perfectly who deserves it and who doesn’t.
Of course, God has this warning in Matthew 7:6 to temper believers who are ready to go all out :
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
And to digress a bit, many years ago, me and Pok had a huge debate over the following verse:
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)
What did it really mean? Can man be as holy as God? But who can be perfect and infallible as God?
(Unlike what many bible students think, the Bible demands to be read literally. If God says ABC, he really means ABC. The world was made in 7 days. Jesus rose from the dead. And so on.)
So when God demands that we be holy like him, he means it, even if it takes an eternity to attain it. God has many difficult commandments anyway (eg. be contented)!
The taxi driver wanted me to treat him with respect, because that’s the very same thing I would do if I were in his shoes. Even at risk of my life and limb, I had to let the driver do his job once I stepped into his taxi. Is it foolish, or doing good? Let me mull on this further.