RECENTLY I WENT into the heart of the country and met an old lady who displayed a quite feisty personality and a lot of pride. Clearly she had worked hard all her life and was proud of what she had been able to achieve over the years.
She was proud of her offspring and she never once failed to let me know. In fact, she was never shy about letting the whole world know.
But it was also clear she was having some financial challenges – a serious cash shortage. I could see that the once stately, yet modest home in which she lived showed signs of major wear and tear all over.
The weather-beaten satellite dish on her rusted roof spoke of a bygone time when she enjoyed many of life’s luxuries. However, the fact that there was no cable from the dish to the inside of the house shouted loudly it was now nothing more than an ornament.
The old lady, as she spoke with me, was clean and tidy and her greying hair was well groomed. This was in spite of the fact that her frock showed many holes – and places where a needle and thread had covered up others.
The corner of the heels of her rubber slippers were so badly worn that at least a quarter of each of her feet was making contact with the ground.
Still she spoke to me with pride, her chest held high, about what she had achieved in life, how she had raised her sons and daughters to be good, decent citizens, how she never failed to help her neighbours in times of adversity, and when she had something to say about events anywhere in this world with which she did not agree, she always spoke without fear or favour.
I fell in love with this old lady. I admired who she had been even though I had only just come to know her. I wanted to help her – to see her place of residence restored to its former glory, to see her complete her march through time displaying the pride that clearly had characterised her life.
So I offered to repair her home. I knew I would get the money back because I had a plan, but it did not involve her spending one red cent. All I needed was her permission to use her land.
But she was having none of it. She admitted the house was in dire need of repairs, but she had her pride and was sure her children would come to her rescue when they were able. I pleaded with her to let me help because by the time her children got around to it, the house would hardly be salvageable.
Still she did not budge.
I found some of her children and won them over. They considered the benefits and the risks and agreed to talk with the old lady, but still she said no.
I was mad. How could she spurn my offer of assistance when it would cost her nothing? How could she not see the wisdom in what I was proposing? Other like-minded people had offered similar help to others in similar position all over the world and they had taken it. Why was this woman’s pride so strong and she so stubborn? How could she not see me as a Good Samaritan?
I wanted to give her a good old Bajan “cussing”. I felt like I could slap her. I was mad with her children for not being able to persuade her of the folly of her ways.
But then it dawned on me that she was under no obligation to take my help. She had every right to turn her back on my offer – to tell me thanks but no thanks. I accepted that if she wanted to remain in her rickety old house while living with the memories of what it used to be, I should not pillory her for that choice.
She may be old and facing challenges, but if she is confident in the ability of her sons and daughters to rescue her, then I should let her be. I should respect her for her strength; after all, there are other old ladies out there who will accept my help.
And so I shook her hand, told her thanks for entertaining me, explained that I admired her tenacity and what she had done over the years and what she had clearly been able to achieve while others struggled, and left with the invitation to give me a call if she changed her mind.
The preceding story was imagined and the old lady represented Barbados; the following comments are real.
So my friends at Cahill Energy, don’t be upset if Barbadians don’t accept your offer. Don’t be offended if some of her offspring invited you in and others disagreed. Respect the fact that she entertained you and your plans even if she does not implement them. Her children rejecting you may turn out to be an unwise decision, but it is their decision to make.
In a nutshell, Barbadians generally are under no obligation to agree with your plan, even if their Government does. Abandon this approach that says you are going to repair our house whether or not we agree, whether or not we want it. That you are going to give us a new home, even if you have to kill us to do it – figuratively speaking, of course.
Please let us decide if we will take your gasification gift.
And remember, there is no disrespect in us saying no!