IF THE WORLD IS A LONELY PLACE, TAKE THE LEAD

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Maybe you are accustomed with my last blog post, “Uncomfortable Truth”.
Now we move from “I’m not going to be a victim here” to the next step, “I’m in charge.”

WALLS
The easy thing to do in our society is to build walls between people. It doesn’t cost a dime. We are too private to let somebody get close to us. We have a good reason for it. We don’t want to be vulnerable and get hurt.

ONE SHORT WORD
I was new in America and for the first time in my actual church. When the service was over, my children and I went on the patio and looked around and waited. There was only one person who came to greet us.
We were used to have lots of people in our lives back in Romania and chatting after church with tens of friends was such a dear fellowship. Now we were alone in a foreign country and in a new church.

Then I made a plan.

The following Sunday after the service I looked around again. I saw elderly people at the tables on the patio waiting for their loved ones to come and pick them up. I walked to the nearest lady and said “Hi!” The woman smiled and greeted me back. Then I introduced myself. We got to talk. It didn’t take long and her family came. The elderly person introduced me to her loved ones and soon, a good number of people from church knew us.

“WELL, I’M AN INTROVERT”
I know, but introvert or extrovert, we were made for relationships. Don’t wait for somebody else to come to you. They might not come. So, you go! Say “Hi!” to somebody you’ve never greeted before.

ASSUMPTIONS
Don’t say “I’m better by myself.” That might be healthy for a while, but not forever.

“Nobody can understand me.”
“I don’t want to be judged.”
“I don’t have energy to invest in strangers.”
“Nobody cares about me anyway.”
“People are weird.”
And so on…
People need people. People need to talk to somebody. We were designed to help others carry their burdens. It’s a two-way road.

BUILD BRIDGES
I was on the plane to Europe a few years ago and right after she took a seat, the lady next to me closed her eyes. I understood she was sad. We took off and, when she opened her eyes and looked at me, she smiled. That was the moment when we started to talk. It was so precious to see her sharing her life story with me. There was a lot of pain in her life, and just having me there to listen and pray with her, brought some degree of healing.

Somebody said they didn’t know their neighbors even though they lived there for forty years. Wow!

Most of the time, people will not flood towards you.
You have to take the lead and get to know them, because we need each other.

Uncomfortable Truth

THE POWER OF IGNORING

There is power in words, in money, in influence, you name it.
One power freqvently used in our society is the power of ignoring a person. People who use it may feel that they are sophisticated and way above others. It sounds even worse when that power is used in a place where it should be unity. I don’t want to make a list of the motives that pushes somebody to dismiss individuals in a group. But the idea behind it is this:
“I’m much better than you and you have no value. ”

Tough, right?

SAY IT STRAIGHT!

I grew up in a world where if somebody had something against you, that individual would come and talk to you. Sometimes the language would be harsh, passionate and even rude. But after that conversation you would know where you stand in that relationship. Most of the time, simple people operate the best in clarity.

A SAD STATEMENT

I remember years ago when I was brand new in the US that, while interacting with a person, somebody would drop in our conversation and start a new one with my companion without acknowledging me. In the beginning I would just wait for the new comer to finish, and then timidly I would introduce myself to that person. It was a surprise to see that that individual continued to look only at my interlocutor, without seeing or hearing me. In the beginning I thought that somebody acting like that was disabled and I had compassion for her.

When this kind of incidents were repeated, I understood that THEY, THE INCIDENTS, WERE A SAD STATEMENT.
“You are invisible to me.”
“I don’t care about you.”
“You are not important to me and I don’t bother greeting you.”
“I’m better than you.”
“You don’t exist.”
“You are not part of my perfect world.”
You pick.

GOTHA!

I was talking to somebody on the church’s patio a few months ago. My friend and I were laughing and having a good time together when this lady came from behind and started talking to my friend in the middle of our conversation. There was no “Hi!” to me or a smile or even a head turned in my direction. It wasn’t something like “I’m sorry but I need to tell you this, it’s urgent.” She just kept talking and talking and talking to my friend as if I wasn’t there. Haha, I knew what she was doing. She was using her power of ignoring me.

Maybe you would have just give up and leave. Well, I didn’t. I waited for her to finally finish and when she wanted to depart, I stepped next to her and told her that what she did wasn’t OK.
“Why?” she asked visible surprised that I had the courage to confront her.
“This is why,” I answered and told her what she did and how that made me feel.
I could see she was uncomfortable and surprised, and right before leaving she said:
“There is only one person who could dare to do this. And that’s you.”
I liked it.

SAD CIRCLE

There were many friends who told me during the years that they were hurt by other people who were using the same strategy against them.It hurts to be told that you don’t matter, even if you are told that with or without words. Because the one who wants to hurt you counts on the fact that you would not confront her/him. And they win.

SAY SOMETHING

If you want to clarify the situation and not dwell in the pain of feeling that you have no worth, you should say something. Show to that person what you sensed and see if that’s the case.
When you reveal it, that is powerful as well and it changes the balance.
I know this is not usual in the American culture, but it’s healthy. You shake off the doubts about yourself, and walk tall, with your head up. Because you have value and your value doesn’t depend on random people.

On my side, I like being in unity and embracing others.
Segregation hurts. Unity heals.

A Bus Full of Kids

EU08_1277We rented a Turkish bus to take us to Turkey years ago.
Our group of many kids, teens and a few adults got off the train in Bucharest, Romania and got on the bus to Turkey. The two bus drivers were over friendly and promised us that we would get a Mc Donald’s meal at the departure time in addition to the fun of the trip.
We were all tired and hungry after a night spent on the train.
Well, it seemed that the friendly drivers changed their mind about the meal when they bestowed our money in their pockets. After minutes of loud reasoning on their side and blunt astonishment on our side, we made a compromise and settled to a hamburger.

Then one of the drivers turned on the engine and we took off.

It was going to be a long ride, crossing the Danube River to Bulgaria, strolling Bulgaria from North to South during the night, getting on the water again and then stepping on the Turkish soil. But we all were so happy to go on this trip and visit dear friends on an exotic land.

The children slept most of the night. I was napping on and off, holding to my chair and marveling at the way the Turkish drivers would change seats while the bus was speeding with 80 miles/hour.
When we stopped right before the border between Bulgaria and Turkey, the bus drivers went and bought bottles of alcohol and placed them under every seat in the bus. They got the liquor at a cheap price and using us to carry it in Turkey where the law didn’t let people in their country with loads of alcohol. Our leader was alarmed to see what was going on and she strongly asked them to take away the bags with bottles, but we were on a strange land and they didn’t care. It was awful to be used like that, but the drivers looked dangerous now that they counted on this kind of business.

Most of the children were still sleeping and had no idea that they were “assigned” bottles of liquor under their seats. It was crazy. The drivers warned us not to talk to the border officers about this, but we couldn’t just go along with it. When the officers from both countries came to search the bus and saw the alcohol under every seat, they smirked. They had been already “paid” to see nothing. We talked to them in English, but the bus drivers knew Bulgarian and of course, Turkish, and the conversation moved on without us.
Our long ride continued with us watching the angry drivers and they watching us.
We crossed the Aegean Sea and headed to Istanbul. When we stopped at the travel agency office for an hour or so, the sun was up and hot.

There were many miles ahead to our destination, and the whole road I felt unsafe.
When we finally got off the bus in Izmir, the children were happy and well, and that was the most important thing. Coming back home was another story.

A Well During the War

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It was in 1939 when the countries in Europe were torn between Germany and Russia. Germany had occupied Poland on September 1st, 1939, starting the II World War and the Eastern Europe countries became easy prey for the two empires.

It just happened that my grandma was pregnant again with her sixth child. She was 36 years old and grandpa was in his late forties. Their oldest daughter was married and already had a baby, and grandma was ashamed to be with child when she was a grandmother. The news about her pregnancy overwhelmed her. She didn’t tell her husband and began acting strange. She didn’t talk, didn’t eat and did her chores around the house weeping in secret.
“What’s wrong with you?’ grandpa Toghere was asking her, but she wouldn’t say a word.

“Your mom is sick,” he confessed to his oldest daughter. “She doesn’t want to tell me. Go and see, maybe she would tell you what’s going on,” he asked his oldest daughter when he visited her on his way back from the field.

Next day, Floritza took her baby with her and went to see her mother. They lived in the same village in Transylvania. She pushed the wooden gate, and the little dog came wiggling to welcome her.
“Mom, are you here?” she asked in a loud voice.
She walked to the little summer kitchen and went behind the drape at the door.
“Mom?”
There was a pot with food simmering on the stove.The woman knew that her mother wouldn’t have the fire on and leave the house. She had to be there somewhere.

Grandma had just finished collecting the eggs in the stable. When she heard her daughter in the yard, she went against the wall in the shade. “I hope she can’t see me here,” she thought and ducked down.
Floritza crossed the courtyard next to the well and got in the house.
“Hello, Buna Ziua!”
Nobody answered.

She searched the second room and then walked outside on the porch.
“Mom, I know you are here and I’m not leaving without talking to you.” She took a seat on the stool and started breastfeeding her baby.

When she learned that her daughter was determined to see her, grandma showed up with the eggs in her apron.
“Did your father send you here?”
“Mom, what’s going on? We are worried about you.” The baby fell asleep and Floritza covered his face with her scarf.
The hostess waved her hand and walked inside the summer kitchen and her daughter followed her.
She placed the eggs on top of the others in a basket and pushed the basket under the daybed with her foot.
“How is your baby?”
“He is healthy, thank you for asking.”

Grandma left her body on the side of the bed and broke down in tears.
“I’m pregnant.”
Her daughter placed the baby on the bed and gently pulled her mother against her shoulder.
“You are going to be all right, mom. This is not a shame, it’s a joy.”
“Everybody would laugh at me. My grandson would be older then his aunt or uncle.”
“So, what?” the young woman replied. “You are married and father would be so happy to have a new baby.”
But the woman didn’t want to be comforted.
“I will go and drown in the well.You’ll see.”
“No, no, mother! You’ll have this baby and we will adopt him or her. You don’t even have to see the child after the birth.”

These words made grandma think and she decided to make peace with herself. She wanted that baby. But even though she informed her family that she would have the little one, they were still concerned and watched grandma to keep her from drowning.
My mom came into the world the following year.

France fell under the German occupation on June, 1940 and England retreated her forces from the continent. Romania found herself without two main supporters and in the way of the German and USSR’s steamrollers. The Russia empire took the NE of Romania, while the Hungary snatched the Northern Transylvania.

Mom was there and soon enough her family had to hide in the forest.

A Promise or Living in Two Worlds and Trying to Stay Sane

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Coffee…
People start to drink it when they feel they are ready, or when their parents allow them to have caffeine, or when they go to college, or get married – like I did…

Today I realized that I didn’t have my coffee in the morning. I was out for an appointment early in the morning and then, when I stopped for a small breakfast on my way home, I didn’t order a coffee. I liked mine, the way I made it. So, I got home, sank into writing and rewriting, took a nap, and after a few hours I really needed my cup. It was after 5PM when I brew it, and I’m still enjoying it now, after 6PM.

When we stayed in Nazareth for a few days, I was amazed to see children drinking coffee every morning. They were full of energy anyway, but that didn’t seem to bother the adults. ( I recall that their specific coffee is strong and has a fragrance of pine.)

I saw mom making her first coffee when I was a teenager. I knew that was coffee, but I had never tasted it. I’ve always associated its aroma with the cigarette smoke. Mom got her bag of ground coffee from the Communist store, where they kept it in small containers when they had it, mixed with ground chickpeas. I found out that mom’s dear boss, a lovely German lady, shared some cups of coffee with my mom during their work break and mother kinda got used to it. I recall that she invited me to try a sip. I tried it, but I didn’t like it.

If I’m correct, I had my first coffee with my mother-in-law. Her son and I were newly weds and we lived with my in-laws for a few years. We had the entire second floor for ourselves, with a common entrance and a common interior staircase. When my mother-in-law made coffee, the strong scent invaded the second floor. She started to make one for me everyday. But what was special was this: because original coffee was impossible to find ( it was always mixed with chickpeas), some small merchants who had the right to travel to former Yugoslavia, started to bring instant coffee and sell it on the black market. I can’t forget it, “Amigo” instant coffee.

Making a cup of instant coffee was art.
You put a full teaspoon of the granules in your cup, add the same amount of sugar and 3-4 drops of water. You start working it, mixing it with the spoon until it comes out like a foam. Then you add hot water.
It took maybe 10-20 minutes to finish the process, time when we were around the table in the courtyard under the cherry tree and sharing about our day. I liked drinking my coffee, but much, much more I enjoyed the company of my family and friends.

After many years, when I had my own children and we lived in a flat, I used to send one of my children to the store to buy a few sachets with instant coffee for the week. I can’t forget what I said to my oldest son when he was about 8 years old:
“When I will get old, you will come to visit me and we’ll have a coffee together.” Because coffee is not only a hot drink, but a promise of a sweet relationship, a dear fellowship with family members and friends.