As I walked my dog through Sheung Wan’s lane ways this afternoon, lost in a sunny afternoon reverie, I was startled by an enthusiastic “Hello!” Opposite Cafe Loisel sat a smiling, happy brunette (I later discovered her name was Dom). “Would you like a free book?” she offered.
In a city where smiles are scarce and generosity is even scarcer, I was intrigued. By Dom’s side sat an old trunk full of books in English and French. I sat down with her while she explained her story.
Beautiful Dom met the man of her dreams a little over ten months ago and is now taking the plunge to travel to New York to be with him. She had confidence in her dream and – just this week – landed a brilliant job and will soon be leaving town.
“But what am I going to do with all my books?” she explained her quandary. In a moment of creativity, Dom decided she would set herself up on a beautiful Hong Kong afternoon and open her treasure chest – and her heart- to her neighbours.
There was a catch, of course, but a beautiful one. A free book in exchange for a photo and a word. She collected everyone’s words on a piece of paper. Dom promises to use the words exchanged with her Sheung Wan neighbours to create a poem (in prose) for her loved one. By the time I got there, I noticed there were at least 20 odd words on the page.
Within seconds of talking to Dom, her enthusiasm and love became increasingly infectious and a smile crept over my face. Generosity is like a heat pack; it warms you to your core. By the time I left (two books the richer! After bonding over Margaret Atwood, she insisted I take two ) I felt inspired. What’s more, I’d made a friend!
Which got me thinking: it’s so easy to forget about “giving” and concentrate on “taking” in this town; it’s so easy to descend into “fight” mode for what we believe we are entitled to. We fight for taxis, we fight for a better job, to get to the front of the queue, for more money, for love, for attention… the list goes on. We get into such a spiral of “fighting” and “taking” from each other for fear that something might be taken from us. That it’s not even. That things are not fair.
But what are we always fighting for? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel we get so caught up in life’s battles that we can forget why we are fighting them in the first place.
Now I don’t have the solution for this spiral – but I think perhaps Dom might be on to something. Maybe it’s time throw up our hands and turn our daily warrior habits on their head and give a little more. Not of our “things”, but of ourselves.
It was Dom’s warm, open and honest ways which were so refreshing. A connection with a stranger. An afternoon story tale.
You don’t have to give away your books to give to others; smiling at someone is such an easy way to give, rather than a blank stare. Or how about some of your time – to a community or cause that matters to you? Or what about just taking a leaf out of Dom’s book and giving more of yourself to friends, family, strangers? Opening yourself up - being generous – and making genuine connections with others seems like such a better, happier and more fulfilling way to live. Why not give it a try? You never know what you might get back after all.
P.S. What were my words? Love (what poem can there be without the word LOVE?!) and tenacity. It’s my favourite word.
P.P.S. Dom promises to be back there next weekend giving away more books, so be sure to go and visit and say hi!