One Christmas in the late 90s, I went to visit my sister who at the time lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Our whole family had flown there to celebrate the holidays together. We took a drive up to the Grand Canyon, stopping in Sedona along the way for a few days. It was a very scenic drive with wide rust-coloured sunsets and the red sandstone rocks of Sedona were stunning. At the time, you could drive right into the Grand Canyon National Park to the hotels on the top of the canyon. We stayed at one of them in rooms with views overlooking the Grand Canyon.
One day after lunch we went for a walk around the hotel and came across a man, maybe in his late fifties early sixties who was taking photos with a special camera. He would develop a photo for you on the spot on film and give it to you without charging for it. They came out looking like old photos in black and white with the background of the canyon. I agreed to have my photo taken out of curiosity, of course also delighted that it was free. I really can’t pass up a bargain or anything free.
He had a chair for you to sit down on so I sat down in front of him as he adjusted his camera and took a shot of me. I then watched him develop it with a lot of care. It took a while as he was meticulously checking to make sure that it all came out well. When he handed it to me, I showed it to my mother who remarked how nicely it had come out and that I should tip him. Not knowing too much about the culture, I said no, he said it was free. I didn’t really understand the whole tipping culture in the US and for me at the time, took everyone at their word, as I would also only say what I meant.
My mother pushed a bit, trying to convince me to tip him but I insisted that he had told me that this was free and I would not need to pay for it. Eventually, she gave up and I smiled at him, said thank you and walked off with my photo which I would go on to add to the photo album of my trip.
I Try to Do Better Now
Looking back now, I recall that the man looked a little surprised as I walked off without leaving a tip. I realised later on that though it was free, it’s the custom in the US to tip service providers, unless you are very unhappy with your service. Even so, it’s customary to tip less, not nothing at all.
If I could go back to that time, I would have tipped him when I thanked him and it pains me to think back and remember how stingy and rigid I was. How much effort and care he had put into taking and developing the photo and how he was likely a retired man enjoying a hobby while earning some extra cash but also would have had to spend on his materials. I wish I’d appreciated him more and what he had given me. His time, energy, effort and care. I wish I had understood more about reciprocity and how valuable it is to be given something from someone. That life is not about what I can get but also about appreciating others for what they have given freely. That there are different cultures and ways of interacting and so much for me to learn about new lands and people that I met.
I now make it a point to appreciate others and learn about new cultures and practices. I greet and thank bus drivers, checkout cashiers, waiters, ushers and anyone that I interact with who has provided me a service. If I see them regularly, I try to remember their names. I don’t take things and people for granted as much and I understand the value of what has been given to me, even and maybe especially if it has been given freely and from the heart. I never expect to be given anything for free again. But even if I am, I make sure to say thank you and reciprocate however I can, tipping where appropriate.
When I have the opportunity to travel, I’ll learn the word for thank you in the language of the country I’m in and if I don’t know much about the place, I’ll read up about the history and customs so I can understand the new culture I’m about to encounter better.
I don’t ever want to regret not appreciating someone again for what they have given me. It also just feels good to be appreciative and say thank you to others, to look them in the eye and acknowledge them and also reciprocate. To see them and recognise their humanity and heart, regardless of what they have to offer me or not.
The interesting thing I found is that when I started to appreciate and reciprocate toward others more, others appreciated and reciprocated toward me. I’m also more content, satisfied and at ease in my everyday life and at peace with myself. As I really saw and acknowledged the goodness around me and gave back, the goodness also acknowledged and gave back to me.
Do you have any regrets about not appreciating someone or something that you have been given?
In what ways do you show your appreciation and reciprocate?
Are there ways that you would like to show more appreciation or reciprocity?