Monday, February 8, 2010

"Giving OR Teaching" or "Giving AND Teaching"?

I have heard this quote numerous times...

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime."

And so the point is made. It is better to teach a man how to fish than to give him a fish. Because in doing so, you help him for life, rather than just for a day. However, I wasn't quite sure if that was the right way to interpret the proverb, at least not in reality.

So let's see... A man, who doesn't know "how to fish", comes to me asking for help because he's hungry. What should I do? Should I just give this man some fish to eat or should I teach him? Aha! I want to be able to equip him for life so that this man can help himself. I'll teach him how to fish! So instead of giving him some fish, I ask him to come with me as I grab my fishing equipment. We go to the nearby pond, and I demonstrate to him how to fish. He tries to imitate what I just showed him, but he can't just do it right because he's not used to it. At least not yet, because he's still a newbie. Anyway, he quickly gets exhausted, and I ask him why. He looks at me and answers "I'm really really hungry." I felt like giving him some fish, which I had several of back home, but I quickly shun the thought and replied, "Don't worry. This is better. Once you learn how to fish, you will be able to get all the fish that you need and want." So I quickly demonstrate to him again how to do it right. So he tries to imitate me once again, but this time he quickly tires and cannot concentrate. His performance is far worse than when he started. His hands are shaking. His body is drenched in cold sweat. His state of desperation is clearly obvious.

And then it struck me. Oh how brutal of me! How insensitive of me! I thought that I was exercising wisdom, but I was so far from it. I quickly went back home, and got several pieces of fish, and gave it to the man. I also apologized to him. He was clearly surprised at my "apologizing" and grateful for the fish that I gave to him. I sat by the edge of the pond to ponder on what had just happened. The proverb wasn't wrong. It was my interpretation. It never mentioned that I should choose only one of the options, whether to give or to teach.

As I was busy pondering on these thoughts, I didn't notice that he had finished eating already. And before I knew it, he was already busy picking up and preparing the fishing equipment. He called on my name, and said out loud with a big smile on his face, "I think I'm now ready for Lesson #2... Can I try again?"

Wow. I was about to realize that it's so much easier to "teach" after you have given.

So perhaps I would like to rephrase the famous Chinese proverb's words to...

"Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. And teach him how to fish, so he can be fed for a lifetime."


1 comment:

  1. A great realization. You should continue writing. I just started my own blog, and if you could check it I would appreciate any feedback or perhaps any ideas :)