Preface: This is a story about our company which happened in its infancy. In the beginning, Topology was a one-person company with limited resources. Peter, the founder, wore many hats from marketing, tour planning, hotels booking to being a tour guide! This is a very hard time. During the period, the company was already operating the Sweet Potato Mama Project. How to maintain the sustainability of this project at this time became an headache for Peter and there was a warm episode behind it.
Photo: Peter guided the Sweet Potato Mama tour to lead the students selling sweet potatoes with single mothers on the street.
I hate to spend my money on something that I will probably never use. And when it comes to marriage, I think the ring is one of them. I had a huge fight over this with my wife, Sindy, who was my fiancée at the time.
Marriage was supposed to be a joyful event, but the revenue of my company was just past the break-even point. This meant that the company was just starting to gain profit, and I was afraid that all the hard work would disappear due to another recession in the market. Consequently, I felt very uneasy when I was picking out a ring for my wife and saw the five to six-digit numbers on the price tag in the jewelry shop because what I had harvested for the last six months would be traded for a ring that couldn’t satisfy me in any practical way.
During that time, my company was promoting a project called Sweet Potato Mama Project which was an activity that allowed foreign travelers to sell sweet potatoes alongside with the single moms. In the beginning, the activity was free because I thought that it was nice that the guests wanted to help the Taiwanese in need and I didn’t feel comfortable charging them for their awesome volunteer work.
This way, many groups of travelers were willing to register for the activity. There were even Taiwanese travel agencies that would arrange this activity for their customers and asked us to guide the tour. It was fantastic because we could promote the Sweet Potato Mama Project together. As long as the foreigner could experience the real Taiwan my dream was realized.
Gradually, the company started thriving, and I was too busy to guide the tour, so I needed someone to help me. I asked my colleagues to guide the tour during their time off, and they were okay with this arrangement. However, sometimes the guests would enroll the activity on the weekends, and the issue of overtime pay arose. Under the condition of no charge for the activity, I didn’t know where to find the money to pay for my colleagues’ work.
Watching Sindy pointing at the rings in the cabinet and the salesman with white gloves taking them out and put them on the black velour with the greatest care, I thought about the people who could join the tour if I paid the guide with the ring money. All the calculation proved to me that the ring was definitely not worth it.
Sindy tried the rings on one by one and asked me nicely about how they looked. But what I was really looking at was the price tag tied to the ring with a yellow rope with golden numbers on it. When the rings were still in the cabinet on display, the price tags were usually blocked on purpose. Only when you tried them on would the little piece of paper show itself. Not to mention the numbers on it were so small that I had to squint real hard just to see it clearly.
I was so conscious about the price that no matter which type of the ring did Sindy pick, I was not interested. Minimalism was too simple, stone holder might ruin the clothes, the foggy gold was not bright enough, the polished one was too high profile, anyway, I opposed to everything. After half an hour, Sindy began to think that it was in vain discussing with me. I didn’t agree with any ring and I didn’t give any compliment. Although I knew that my attitude was over the line, I didn’t know how to explain it to Sindy.
When we got back home, Sindy complained about my attitude. She was frustrated because I was unreasonably picky and wouldn’t provide any explanation, so I started an argument with her saying that the ring was not so important and that diamond was just a stone with higher density and was comprised of the same element as pencil. Who said that a marriage couldn’t work without a ring? I thought it was all merchants’ plot. I even said that people in the past got married without a ring and they lived their life just fine.
As I was defending my argument non-stop, all of a sudden, Sindy stopped talking. At the moment, I thought I finally convinced her and felt a bit happy. Out of the blue, she began to cry and said that she didn’t know why I cared so much about the money and that we could always earn that money back in the future. After finishing her part of the debate, she cried ever harder and shouted for an explanation as to why I was not willing to buy her a ring.
For the whole time, I didn’t believe that tears could be contagious, but when I opened my mouth and told her that I didn’t even have the money to pay for my colleague for their work on the weekends, I said those words sobbing. Before this, I didn’t know that I put so much pressure on myself. I felt sorry about those who were excited about the Sweet Potato Mama Project. They wanted to do something good for the Taiwanese. I felt sorry about my colleagues. They sacrificed their time with their loved ones and came to work on the weekends just so that I could fulfill my dream, and I couldn’t give them any overtime pay in return. I felt sorry about the past me. I finally found an activity that the foreigners might be interested in, but might have to call it off due to the lack of fund. Growing more and more upset; I ended up burst into tears and cried my heart out on Sindy’s laps.
Maybe it was because that I didn’t show the soft side of me so often or maybe it was because that I cried too loud, it was Sindy who turned around and consoled me. She said that she could donate the ring money as the first fund to the Sweet Potato Mama Project so that I can pay my colleagues. In return, I also had to find a way to make this project a sustainable development. I had to consider charging for the activity in avoidance of the tight budget situation again.
Upon hearing these words, I cried even louder because there was another name added on the list of people to whom I owed. Thanks for Sindy’s wit I understood that helping the customers creating unforgettable memories was the most meaningful thing to do. As for the ring, we still needed it, but it was just a symbol with or without diamond or pure gold. On the next day, we went to buy a ring with a price less than ten thousand TWD, and it contained platinum, which was called “white gold” in Chinese (at least there was gold in the name!)
For my first hard cry and for the fact that free of charge would slowly kill the activity, our volunteer work experience transformed into a pay activity. With sufficient resources, more and more people can participate in this activity in the future.
Come to think about it now, I was just stingy and wouldn’t pay for a ring that symbolized eternity. But thanks to this event, my wife and I understand more about each other’s value. However, let me ask you one thing, do we really need a ring to prove our love when she has already won over my heart?
Photo: Peter & Sindy.