December 8, 2009

"THE GIFT" of change?

Helping someone change when they want to change can be challenging. Trying to change someone who doesn't really want to change can be dangerous, if not impossible. Consider the following story.

An older man named Ralph rode his bicycle to work each morning. He had grown accustomed to the old-fashioned pedal braking system, the wider seat, and the slightly crooked handle bars that were a testimony to an accident from years ago. Although it was an older bike, Ralph never complained to any of his friends or neighbors about his transportation because it was just part of his daily lifestyle.

Ralph had a hard time pedaling up some of the steep hills between home and work because this bike had no gear system and only one speed...that of the rider. Despite the age and lack of modern improvements on the bike, he appreciated its rugged simplicity and plain character similar to his own.

One day a young man who lived nearby saw Ralph struggling through his daily route going back and forth to work. Being a caring individual he wanted to do a nice deed and thereby developed a plan with several of the other neighbors.

Without consulting Ralph they jointly picked out a brand new bike with all the latest equipment and made the purchase. At Christmas time they gathered together and enthusiastically presented this new and improved luxury to their neighbor. Ralph was stunned and very reluctant to accept the gift but after much encouragement and a little pressure he succumbed to their wishes.

The very next work day Ralph hesitantly climbed onto this newfangled piece of equipment. Riding a bike with a totally different design, a new braking system, a thinner harder seat and straight handle bars he felt like a fish out of water.

Ralph’s feelings and his apprehensions were rewarded in the worst kind of way. He lost control of the bike on his way to work and had a bad accident. It put him in the hospital for three days and gave him some huge medical bills. His physical pain and financial strain led to a deep resentment towards his "kind neighbors". He had been reluctant to accept their gift and blamed them for the terrible outcome of their form of generosity.

Before we try to help others change (or as we see it, ‘improve’) we should consider the cost. We might also remember the personal challenges we all face when trying to change ourselves. Some people seem to thrive on change and welcome it as part of positive growth and everyday life. Others are slower to change and much more cautious about anything that upsets the status quo.

Both behaviors lend value and balance to the broader perspective of this thing we call life. Remember...the best place to begin with change is you.

Ultimately you are the only one you can change. And that’s a gift you can live with.

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