Strong Back, Open Heart

So here I am, in an amazing land, feeling a little refreshed from a couple of days rest, although the days have also been full, and my soul feels as it has a little more capacity. Again, not sure if I’m staying here yet, but I do konw that I’m still not ready to face greater India at the moment, as I’ve tired of everyone wanting something from me. Just an hour ago for example, a man from Andrha Pradesh in India who is a retired headmaster of a high school after 35 years spoke with me for awhile and then asked me to give him something, anything – a pen, a book, anything. I told him I didn’t have anything to give which was true and he asked me to empty my bag to show him what I had. And this wasn’t a beggar child, this was the headmaster of a school with a cleanly pressed yellow shirt, with a nice retirement pension, and on a pilgrimage to this place and staying in my hotel.

Other recent examples:

  • I helped a young drum salesman by giving him my mosquito net, buying mosquito cream, letting him shower in my room, loaning him a little money, and then he goes and way overcharges me for a drum, swearing it’s the right price and telling me I am like a brother to him. Like my father’s friend Griesha once said to me about restaurant supply vendors, “Teddy, they’ll f*ck you with out even kissing you.” It feels kind of like that.
  • I pushed a kid with a hand pedaled bike with a flat to a repair shop and gave him 50 rupees to fix the tire and then I saw him later that day with the same flat hustling someone else.
  • I gave a kid I’ve met several times who I know to be an orphan and has two prosthetic feet a couple hundred rupees for some prescriptions he had and then the next day he asks me for 3,000 rupees for a trip to Chennai for more medical work. “No.” And this morning he calls me at 6:48am on my cell phone. Not answering that one, friend.
  • Man befriends me and helps me find a place to eat, swearing he doesn’t want anything in return and then hits me up to buy food to bring home for his family of 6.
  • Rickshaw drivers who endlessly try to hustle you and sometimes get abusive when you simply ask for the deal that you agreed to (and not to go shopping or to the temples, or wherever).

A hundred stories of this sort and it got too old, so I’m keeping myself a little more guarded, but always trying to love and smile while saying “No.”

Please people, don’t be my friend just so I can give you something, because I’ve done this too much and as a whole you’ve hurt my heart. I won’t give you anything except my heart, which I’ll continue to do my best to share. With an open heart, I am taken advantage of almost daily and it began to hurt too much to keep my heart open. But I won’t close it, you won’t get the better of my spirit, I’ll just have more boundaries and more clarity. But only so I can continue to love fully.

Someone yesterday told me a wise saying for making the most of India:
“Strong Back, Open Heart.” I couldn’t agree more.

2 replies on “Strong Back, Open Heart”

Hi Ted. So the Clash wrote a song about your situation, I think.I think that having an open heart attracts the types of people that look to take advantage of your kindness. I’m like that, or at least I have been like that at various times. Like all the crazy people want to talk to me. On BART once I got taken by a pregnant deaf woman who said she had five dollars and needed 15 for a medical visit. Then she was reluctant to give me the five when I gave her a twenty. Later that night, I helped a homeless wheel chair bound veteran who was stuck on a curb. He needed 5$ to get a shower at the Y because he was “sitting in about 5 pounds of diarrhea.” And I probably saw you later that night as I was on my way to a party at Julie and Patty’s. Months later, I saw the same guy in the wheelchair scamming someone else – he got his chair stuck on purpose.Keep your heart open, like a window in the Spring, but you know, have a screen on your window to keep the flies and mosquitoes out.

Hi Ted, a second comment from me, the one from Thaton/Thailand, I so recognise your stories, please don’t be bothered by it. a real answer is HUMOR, and Compassion. It helps to make fun with those fellowman who react only too human. Fun with, not at! That way you keep and share your energy, and most of the time all you have to do is not pity them, but give a little push to get them out of their trodden track. To ‘help’ is a real tricky and questionable action, as harsh as this may seem.

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