“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~Winston Churchill
It was a beautiful winter’s day in Sydney. Having returned home after working for two years in Singapore and traveling through Asia, I felt like I owed it to myself to do something I loved.
My heart has always been in fitness and travel. When there was a job opening at my local travel agency, I applied, went for the interview, and got the position. I was a happy girl—but only for a short while.
Two months into my job, it didn’t feel right. I felt something was missing. And suddenly, everything that I thought I knew about my love for traveling went astray. I wasn’t satisfied with my job.
I had to decide if I wanted to stay or leave. I didn’t have a wealth of options. If I were to quit, I would be jobless for a while. The best I could have done was to spread my love and knowledge of fitness to my average of fifty daily blog visitors.
If I were to stay, I would have had to suck this up, being unhappy and unsatisfied.
I took the road less travelled and sent in my letter of resignation a few days after.
For weeks after that, I felt lost and uncertain. I wished I hadn’t resigned. I wondered: What am I going to eat? How am I going to sustain myself?
And then it happened, when I least expected it.
A seventy-five-year old lady came in on a rainy day. She had a medium sized stature, and she was of Asian descent with a rather intimidating face. She told me her name was Chan and that she would like to inquire about a trip to London to visit her daughter.
I was rather reluctant at first to help her out, thinking it might be yet another empty inquiry, but I thought about how I would feel if my parents were the ones walking into a travel agent, being treated unfairly.
I sat down at my desk, on my second-to-last day, with a genuine smile on my face.
My “empty inquiry” thoughts turned out to be true. Two hours into her consultation, she said she needed to think about everything I’d proposed. I told myself it was okay. The sale wasn’t meant to be; at least I’d helped her as much as I could.
Before she left, I had to tell her that it was my second-to-last day at work, and if she were to come in several days later, I wouldn’t be around to help her.
I thought she wouldn’t really care, but to my surprise, Mrs. Chan sat back down on her seat.
She started questioning me. She asked me where I was going, why was I quitting, and what my plans were after this.
I tried to be as honest as I could, telling her that the job wasn’t right for me and I didn’t have any concrete direction. All I had was my Physiology degree and a burning passion for fitness. I was half-hearted. My eyes got wetter and she could sense the doubts in my voice.
Like an angel sent from above, she held my hands and looked into my eyes.
“My dear, sometimes in life we’re being tested. We’re given directions and options and we have to weigh them. And sometimes, even after weighing on a multitude of scales, lengths, and units, it is perfectly normal not to be sure of anything.”
I kept silent. I was listening, my brain was processing.
“I just turned seventy-five last week. I want to book a trip to London to surprise my daughter who has been living there for three years. Three years ago, she was at the exact same position as you. The only difference is she was made redundant.”
Still listening, I was a tad surprised she was opening up about her life.
“Before I go on, I want to thank you for helping me through this inquiry. I am always skeptical about travel agents, but you proved that not all of you are the same. It's a pity that this company is going to lose an exceptional young lady like you, but I’m happy for you. I could see it through your eyes as soon as I stepped into the store that you would be better off elsewhere. And I was right!” Mrs. Chan chuckled.
It was unbelievable hearing her speak when she’d seemed cold for the past two hours. Still, I continued listening.
“Now I’m going to tell you exactly what I told my daughter three years ago. If you’re doing anything in life that is making you unhappy, you should stop as soon as you can. You’re young. Set yourself free. Don’t waste time doing things you don’t enjoy doing.”
“Great, now she’s reading my mind,” I silently thought, still waiting for her next words.
“You might not know at this point in time if this is the right thing you’re doing. You might fail. You might be disappointed you left a good-paying job. But a good-paying job is nothing if you’re not happy.”
She continued, “Finish your duties here and step into the unknown world. You never know what you might discover. You should be out there seeing the world and helping people with your beautiful smile and kind soul.”
The tears I was vainly holding back started to roll down my cheeks.
“And if life hits you hard one day, remember you made the effort to pursue your dreams. You made memories. And you chased after what you loved the most. You will be okay.”
Her words hit me hard. I never knew I needed them until that moment. It was the most perfect timing in my life.
“That is all I can say to you. Like a seventy-five-year old knows any better!” she joked.
I wiped my tears and walked her out of the door. I wanted to hug her and just stay there in her arms, the arms of a stranger that I only knew for two hours, but I held myself back.
“And remember this—no matter what you do, be kind to others. That should be the fundamental base of all your actions.”
Stunned for the millionth time, I stood there, speechless. She left. I saw her walk away. I don’t even know her full name. Or her contact details.
I went home that night and hugged my mother. I needed it. I needed her. And I never knew I needed Mrs. Chan and her words.
It came to me because I was kind. And it came to me when I least expected it.
Being kind is the fundamental base of all my actions. And I will remember that for the rest of my life.
Sometimes in life we meet people who are there to help and guide us, but we have to be open to receive it. Whether or not we choose to accept it, everyone wins when we’re all kind to one another.
Never underestimate the power of kindness. You never know how much happiness you can bring to someone’s life.
Photo by Kietaparta