21 Jul
  • By Tim Fijal
  • Cause in

The Essential Art of Giving: Taiwan

Thanks to a delayed flight from Manila, we arrived in Taipei in the middle of the night. After a short 4-hour slumber, I woke up to a shiny black sedan with tinted windows ready to pick me up at our airbnb apartment doorstep. Out stepped Dr. Chiu, a man about half my height with a smile bigger than the sky above. Dr. Chiu is a nearly-retired dentist with a practice in Taipei whose wife, Josephine, had been my student for a brief period about a dozen years ago. He whisked me off to his dental practice (which was closed on this Saturday morning) and rolled open the iron gate to his office for me, VIP style.

After fixing up my aching tooth, the Good Dentist took me by the arm and promptly escorted me across the street where we met with his old buddy, a family doctor. Some cuts on my feet from our first-day trek in the Philippines were infected and with each passing day becoming more sore and swollen, they needed immediate attention. And so I received it without question, without fuss, with much care and palpable kindness. Medication and bandages in hand, all patched up, neither doctor would receive payment for their efforts. Dr. Chiu then drove me 30 minutes back to our accommodations, shook my hand heartily then gave me a big bear hug. It was almost like he was the one grateful for the opportunity to give.

And this was our experience of Taiwan where every which way we turned, people were giving to us.

The greatest givers of all, though, were our hosts, Cliff and Jessica. These beautiful people were my students about a decade ago, and have since become like family to us. This was our first chance to visit them in their native land of Taiwan. Having arranged our entire itinerary for us, they drove us all over south and central Taiwan, treated us to countless meals, got us settled in beautiful accommodations, lined up medical attention, shared their knowledge, welcomed us into their family home for a delightful dinner, invited us along for a Taiwanese engagement banquet, brought us to beautiful out-of-the-way places, and opened doors for our TRI objectives. Their capacity to give with gladness has been an inspiration to me for as long as I have known them.

Cliff and Jessica had a friend who is a professor at a technical university in Taichung – Prof. Huang.  We were so grateful to this kind man for being receptive to learning from us, and for arranging for members of his faculty and some of his students to come and listen to us present on Green School, Kul Kul Connection, and TRI. We were also very grateful to have Cliff and Jessica to interpret our presentation into Mandarin for us!

Prof. Huang also connected us to a certain Mr. Lai, the famous ‘Tree Man of Taiwan’. We were so fortunate to be led to the lush and forested mountainside near Taichung in central Taiwan where Mr. Lai has planted hundreds of thousands of trees on a piece of land he purchased with half of his fortune, specifically for forest restoration.

With the “Tree Man” himself, Mr. Lai and his kind-hearted mom.

Mr. Lai presented to our group that included Prof. Huang and a number of his associates.  We were encouraged to learn that Mr. Lai’s values were so closely aligned with our own. He explained to us the importance of living simply, reducing our consumption, connecting with nature, and honoring elders.  His 96-year-old mom was there with us and has stood by her son through the past dozen years that he has been at work on restoring this gorgeous piece of land to inspire future generations in Taiwan.

After Mr. Lai presented, he handed me the microphone and I was humbled to have the opportunity to speak to this audience about our own perspectives on conscious consumption, education, and connecting with nature. Mr. Lai’s generosity in sharing his time, his experiences, his beautiful land, and then a delicious lunch on a Sunday afternoon was a display of leading by example. His emphasis on giving enables him to have a greater impact, earn credibility, and gain influence for his positive values too.

We encountered so many other givers in Taiwan, each of which prompt me to reflect on the valuable art of giving. Too often we are inclined to think giving needs to be fair and equitable with receiving. But trusting in the power and potential of giving alone is an exciting and enabling concept. As we see others willing to give whatever they can with a whole heart for no other reason but to relieve suffering, and to promote positivity, kindness, generosity, and sustainability in this world, we are inclined towards following in their footsteps.