Burrowed amongst the cozy interior of my new favorite coffee shop, sits an older man with a daily newspaper. I hadn’t noticed him at first, and probably wouldn’t have, if he hadn’t politely stopped me one day, pointed to the word, ‘repercussions’ and asked me if I knew what it meant. I offered him an explanation and tried to further clarify the word’s meaning within the article’s context. He attentively listened and then jotted down my description above the word.
Now, when grabbing a coffee my heart is regularly warmed by seeing him work his way through the daily paper. With no qualms or reservations, he will occasionally raise his eyes to gently ask a passerby to assist him with a word. His determination is inspiring. His perseverance, admirable. But it is his profuse humility that resounds most powerfully.
Often mistakenly posed in conflict with confidence, humility is a complex trait misunderstood and therefore, undervalued. Humility is not the denigration of our abilities, nor is it a pathetic resignation to our lack thereof. When we recognize our inherent shortcomings, not with embarrassment or shame, but with an eagerness to learn and grow we transcend the bounds of the individual’s limitations, as modelled by my coffee shop companion.
My arrival in New York City has demanded the utmost humility from me. Not necessarily the noble kind, but the compulsory kind. When I don’t know which way is uptown or downtown, what I’ll be doing on the weekend or how I’ll find a job in one of the most competitive cities in the world – I am humbled. I have been forced into what was, until recently, foreign to me; a reality where I am left with no choice but to seek and depend on the support and assistance of others.
Since this is the internet, a place where all secrets are contained and kept, I’ll take this opportunity to let you in on one… A short two months ago I would have conclusively told you there was nothing I hated more than asking for or accepting favors. An aversion centered around an undetectable shyness and fear of inconveniencing people. What I didn’t realize when I chose to come to New York was that I would have to rid myself of this trait if I planned on surviving here for even a day.
I have now come to feast regularly on humble-pie, a taste which is sweeter than I could have ever imagined. In humbling myself to my surrounds, I have in turn been humbled by the outpouring of kindness and consideration with which I have been met. Momentary meetings have led to kind invitations to some of the coolest events, the most wonderful weekends and delicious meals. The most tenuous contacts have facilitated helpful meetings, career mentorship and a growing pool of connections. By voicing a need for help and even just accepting someone’s thoughtful offer, I have been astonished by the inundation of generosity that has ensued.
I have come to recognize humility as the precursor to advancement and collaboration, capable of enriching our lives if we so choose. We ought to feel no embarrassment in asking a question or seeking assistance, for the true cause of embarrassment is if our pride or reservations inhibit us from doing so.
So serve me up a big slice of humble pie I say. Oh and if you don’t mind my asking, what’s the recipe, I’ve never made pie and would love to learn?