Models for Humility

A day I never have forgotten.

There is much talk in social media about how we compare ourselves to our beautiful active friends that we see doing happy things in their various social media posts!  While we, ourselves, are feeling unmotivated and not nearly so cool, in our own individual lives.  Comparison to others is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness – says Laurie Santos in her Yale Coursera course on: The Science of Well Being.

But what if I wrote about what I regret? Would others feel happier if they knew their lives were better than mine?  And what shame would I bring to myself with my revelation?  What vulnerability would I feel if I shared one of my regretful stories rather than my successful ones?  Therefore, let me tell you about something that I regret and see what you think.

I was in in Skopje, Macedonia attending a 3-day training on managing for Productivity.  The actual topic I have forgotten and many of the details of what I learned are wisps of air that have disappeared over time.   But I do remember something so distinctive that it haunts me to this day.

I was walking with two colleagues to the morning training session around 7:30 in the morning.  To get to the training venue we needed to walk behind the hotel.  I remember that it was the Holiday Inn, a very nice hotel, not so far from the Large Alexander Statue in the middle of the town square not so far from the old bridge over the river.   We walked conversing and showing our status with each other with stimulating conversation and asking smart questions.  We also shared accomplishments, and I wanted so much to fit in, I listened attentively. 

As we walked through the parking lot, the garbage bins were in the back of the lot.  A small boy was crying near the end of the hotel trash bins.  He must have been 4 or 5, striped shirt and black shorts.  An older man, bald with a mustache, was trying to climb into the bins.  He was trying to pull himself up to look inside.  They were tall and not easily accessible from the ground.  He looked for something to stand on.  I clearly saw this and remember all details as I was doing smart talk with my colleagues. I heard the boy’s steady whimper, which part of me registered, was from his hunger.  I saw the look of desperation on the boy’s “father’s” to find food for his son.


I walked by.  I did not stop.  My ego was bound to making an impression.  My two colleagues did not stop.  All three of us walked by and did nothing.    Social bonding?  Blindness? Status?

I regret to this day that I did not stop and give this man money to feed his child.  He did not ask. It was up to me in my humanity to act.  And I failed myself.

  • Do I post this story ?  Do I show the picture on Social Media platforms?  No, I don’t because it is a thing that I regret.  And I am not proud of it, and I don’t want people to know this about me.

But does it really mater what others think?  It doesn’t.  I know my imperfections and to this day, while I don’t give to all people in need, I am more aware not to walk by and more aware of my need for social bonding and more aware of the strength of my ego to ignore.   I think how can I find more of the humanness in me and not be caught up in my need to be seen as cool.   

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