Thursday


Give and take


Saleh Al Shaibany

Giving and taking come under many forms. Some people are pushy and they take what they want regardless of what others feel. Some poor souls, they just give to be accepted. They know no other way and many people take them for granted. Years of playing the role of unselfish givers, make them prime target of abuse and on the receiving end of cruel jokes.

They usually lack confidence and what we see as social grace. Older people are more vulnerable. Sometimes, it is hard to understand them and they appear to be a nuisance. It took me many months to get it and only after putting so many pieces together. I used to see her only as an annoying old lady who had nothing to do with her time. She would turn up at our front door with a plate of something she had cooked. Sometimes, she would stop at a shop and buy something for us.

If my wife was not in, we would chat in the front yard. I would stand out in the blazing sun, a plate in my hand, talking to her and repeating every other sentence. The lady is hard of hearing and talking to her is never an easy thing. Like all deaf people, she would talk loudly making our discussion appear like a heated debate. Half of what she says to me makes very little sense. It makes perfect sense to her. It is her world and her way of making contact. My world is to drive to my office in the morning, talk to as many people as possible, come back home and flop on the sofa. There is very little that we share. Except, of course, the food she brings.

Her circle of contacts is just a handful of people. She has to bribe each one of us with a little something so we could welcome her to our world. She lives alone in a house where television makes incoherent noises and half of the time she would not hear her doorbell ring. The telephone was almost a useless tool because she would understand very little of what people tell her. In her home, now I know, she felt completely isolated from the big, sprawling world.

Her only comfort is to give what she has since there is almost nothing she can get from her own environment. She gives it repeatedly and it is now her way of life. But almost no one understands it. She asks nothing in return but people have to listen to her, to whatever she has to say. This is where she goes wrong. They make fun of her deafness and some completely ignore her. In a group, they would talk to each other and she is left out of the conversation.
Nobody wants to repeat themselves to an ageing woman. It is cumbersome, embarrassing and time wasting.

They would not go to her house or call. When she approaches, they turn another way. Sometimes, they would not open the door when she turns up at their homes.

In this case, she would understand and leave a plate of delicacies she had made near the doorway. It is her calling card. She is not pushy in the way she gives and takes away anything from people. All she asks for is a little consideration and a minute from the busy schedule of the people she calls her friends. It is not easy to be accepted but she is not exactly spoilt for options. There are many people around us in the same predicament and their only way out is for the rest of us to show some compassion.

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