‘As much as I like working at the retreat centre, I miss doing practical work with those in need’, Ted told Laura as they walked along the cobbled streets on Taipei. Thy had decided to come into town for the afternoon. First they had visited a couple of exhibitions and then had late lunch at an American diner. There were days when they both missed Western food. There was only so much and rice and noodles that one could eat. Laura certainly wasn’t used to eating noodles for breakfast.
‘I feel that the retreat centre is more of an elitist place’, Ted continued. ‘Like those who have the money can come there. But when I was at the monastery, I really felt like I was making a difference and I could see the impact every day in my work. ‘
‘Yes, I know what you mean’, Laura nodded. They were walking through a park that had pretty statues of animals scattered all around it. There were always small artistic touches in different places around Taipei, which was refreshing.
‘Sometimes I feel like a snob spending all this money on a retreat when I know that I could be doing something more useful with it’, she said thoughtfully.
‘You shouldn’t feel bad about spending some money on yourself’, Ted said firmly. ‘Your own well-being comes before anything else and it does sound like you desperately needed a break. We can’t compromise ourselves for others. We have to look after ourselves first. If you are not feeling well, you can’t help others either.’
‘That’s true’, Laura said thoughtfully. ‘We could find somewhere to volunteer once a week though. It would be nice to have something else to do at least once a week, to meet other people and to do something useful.’
‘That’s a great idea’, Ted agreed. ‘It might help me in figuring out what I want to do once I leave this place as well. Right now I’m not so sure.’
‘It will be helpful for me as well’, Laura said. ‘It would be good to find something to do with people so that I can brush up my social skills again, in particular if I am planning on working with people again soon.’
‘They don’t need any brushing up’, ted laughed. ‘But yes let’s see what we find.’