This is kind of a rare thing for me, for me to start off with a picture. But I really felt that it was necessary. When I see this picture and these kids, I just kind of die on the inside and cry tears of joy on the outside. It’s a weird feeling, but then again, I’m somewhat new to realizing that it’s ok for a guy to have feelings, so, you know, it’s fine, whatever. If you’ve been keeping up, these are my Tileagd kids again. Great bunch. A little rowdy this last session, but that’s how kids get when they are cooped up inside due to the CANICULA!!! Oh, the horror!! So the Romanian language has a word for a day of extreme heat, meant to convey feelings of fear, worry, and despair. Note the resemblance to Caligula and Dracula. Definitely on purpose. But I laugh in the face of danger, and the kids and I went for a walk to the nearby creek. We played Telephone with English words and expressions, Hide and Go Seek, and a game that’s called “Ţară, ţară, vrem ostaşi” which translated means “Country, Country, We Want Soldiers” which is pretty much another fun game to wear kids out. Whew! Then we walked back singing some classic Romanian children’s songs and English nursery rhymes. The neighbors gave us some funny looks, but it seemed like they enjoyed it. 🙂 Then we went back to work with the kids! Some more music, some more English, when they get bored of one, switch to the other. Works every time. We started the lessons much earlier though, at least two hours before the games, in which time we did English and music. However this was a special day. My day had started much earlier. This day was special because of more than just the time I was able to spend with the kids. That morning, I had gone shopping together with Shonye, a Romi man that had volunteered many times to help Charis and was my connection to Tileagd, as well as the man who organized all of the children to come whenever we had sessions. After some classic, hardcore price-hunting, we filled the trunk and the backseat with food. Why? This is an interesting time of year for the poor. It’s after the sowing and before the reaping. And the weather tends to the extreme, which is hard for the non-airconditioned world. In America, we give an alert and say to stay inside. In non-America poor-people-land, they respond that inside is outside when you have curtains for doors and leave the windows open that at least the air might circulate.
But we weren’t just giving to any Romi poor. We were giving to the working poor who were in sincere need. Those with a new perspective on life. Classic Romi colony lifestyle? If (big if) the dad works, then usually as soon he gets his hands on some cash, he drinks it all, gambles it away, and then comes home to a hungry family drunk and well...anyways. If the dad doesn’t work, then the methods vary but the results are the same. I won’t bother to show you the condition of their houses/huts/shanties. There are some families where this doesn’t happen, where the dads have changed their lifestyle and as a result, everything else changes as well. This usually happens because of a change of medium due to converting to some evangelical form of Christianity, but I say this because so far, I have seen a grand total of zero cases of this happening any other way, that is, short of the younger generation leaving and the family tree being changed that way. But never a change in the parents. Which is interesting because it really has brought to life the truth that if someone really wants to do some good, then when someone gives, when someone helps, they need to do so in a holistic way, considering the whole person and the whole situation. My old Bosnian buddy Sanjin always used say to me, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for life.” And that’s so true. If someone is to give tangible help, that will only be useful and beneficial in certain situations. The intangible, however, is what is most important. And just like anyone who knows anything about rehab, overcoming addiction, ghetto culture, and so on knows, one of the most important factors for long-term change is a change in the medium. That’s why at a graduation of TSU’s that I attended, a state-funded public university, they sang black people gospel church music. That’s why the city of Oradea has a part of the budget apportioned specifically to the furthering of religion and religious activities. Because these people are in those situations and know what life is like, and know how that change in the medium can help people with self-destructive lifestyles and unhealthy mediums come out of those situations because they have seen it first-hand. Like I have now.
It’s so interesting: my perspective on giving has developed so much. Now I know what situations the beggars in Romania come from. I know what every action of mine towards them will further or affect. I know their lifestyle because I have worked among them and have seen the truth of their situation. I have seen the half-blind or handicapped children (oftentimes intentionally maimed) begging as well as the healthy mother with five kids as well as the man whose condition is as dilapidated as his life. I have seen people selling flowers only to steal something off the table when people aren’t looking. And now I know the truth of the situations that I have seen. As Solomon says, “For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Now I know where giving is helpful to the person and where it is detrimental by furthering an unhealthy lifestyle. Now I can discern just by the style of dress of the beggar and the way that they speak and what they ask for and the way that they ask it and what they answer to my occasional questions what I should do in the situation, because now I’ve seen both sides, or all of the several sides of the issue, and my love has been tempered by truth and my truth by love.
I was eating in the center with some Romanian acquaintances from Oradea one day together with some members of my family from the area and a beggar came to our table. Being the oldest guy, as my uncle had not yet arrived, I had to decide how to deal with the situation. I surely would not have let the ladies give if anyone was to, but if I didn’t give him money or if I decided to give something else, everyone would have followed my lead, because I culturally had the most authority to speak for us if I chose to speak. So, as our food had not come yet and I now have an extremely strict policy that I don’t give money to beggars (especially for people like the beggar that came), when he came by everyone fell silent and I very firmly told him that I don’t give money to beggars. Once, twice, thrice, four times, and he finally left. The Romanians remained silent about it because they understood better how things worked, but a Romanian-American girl there expressed how she wouldn’t have been able to do that. That’s one side of the coin: flatly, coldly refusing because you understand that your money will only hurt them. However, that too is balanced by the other side of the coin, which is what happened on the day of my most recent session in Tileagd. We bought basic staple foods and ingredients for families with a new perspective on life who had already begun to live a new lifestyle. Those where the fathers no longer drank or did drugs, where the fathers worked, where the fathers no longer beat their families, but fed their families and tried to give themselves and their families a better life. Those where the families tried as hard as they could, but things were still difficult, because as reformed Romi, most of them have no education, and the GED-like programs that used to be offered for them are no longer available, so they work on a day-job basis, day-jobs, especially for those without a diploma in a trade, which are oftentimes seasonal in nature, with summers and winters being harder seasons, due the scarcity of nonagrarian day-jobs near where they live. Construction? Who has money to build? You’re in the country. Who needs to build? Mothers working? Who is going to take care of the kids? Daycare is nonexistent in the areas where they live and they couldn’t afford it anyways. Grandparents take care of the kids? Most of the families live in third-world conditions: if the grandparents make it, yes, that is a very happy condition. Drive somewhere else? Who has the money for a car? For gas? And if so, considering the pay-check, is it even worth it? And a bike? For many of these people, a bike costs about two-month’s salary. For the ones who need it, well...I think you get the picture. So, we helped those who helped themselves as best they could, but still didn’t have enough to not go hungry. And it was special indeed.
Maybe from the pictures you won’t be able to tell their joy and gratitude, but if you knew them and were there and understood Romanian culture, you would have easily been able to tell what was going on inside. Notice that none of the dads are there. Yep, you guessed it: working. Also, take note that the people in all of these pictures are wearing some of their best clothes. Also note: culturally, in Romania, people oftentimes don’t smile a whole lot in pictures, especially official pictures, and you sometimes have to catch them off-guard to do so because of a word-play on the word serious. Being serious is generally considered to be a good thing, but being un-serious is bad because the connotations of the word are very negative, oftentimes used as an insult, to describe someone who cheated you or wronged you and so on. And of course, the aversion to being un-serious is so great, that people tend towards the opposite. It is an interesting example of how language affects a culture. In fact, when I went to go and make my Romanian passport, the people told me not to smile in the picture. Why? Because I didn’t want to appear to be “un-serious.” I think it’s pretty hilarious. But anyways, I thought that I should mention that so that you all can better understand the pictures. So, I decided to add more pictures this time around because people have been asking for more pictures. So, here you go! This first picture is of when we laid all of the food out to get it ready to be packed, in the house of the person who was driving me around to give all of the food out.
This girl’s mother died, and she sleeps on this bed. Imagine how those cracks keep in the heat during the winter, heat out during the summer, and what effect the curtain over the door has. Yes, the floor is dirt.
Typical Romanians drying their clothes outside. In this house, there are actually five families who live there. But what I love about this picture, that I think shows the true state of things, is the two little boys here. To each child, I gave a lollipop and two Romanian biscuit dessert things that have chocolate or cream inside of them, some of the least expensive ones too, and they are both running to show their mom. Running. Because they got some cheap biscuit cream dessert thing. I just don’t think people reading this realize how rare stuff like this is for them. I have been bringing the Tileagd kids candy, and I asked them when the last time they ate a piece of candy was, and they said that they couldn’t remember. These are the families with a new perspective, keep in mind, which are doing way, way better than most Romi families, that “way better” being oftentimes still going hungry. I definitely teared up at this picture, especially since I know the children.
Several families also live in this “house.” Many times the families are separated by only a wall or a curtain.
Haha. Kid don’t even care about the picture. LOLLIPOP.
Shirtless, shoeless, pretty typical of these people. Note that for several of these families I didn’t take pictures inside because I didn’t want to shame the families. Imagine that most of the families have rugs on the walls due to a lack of insulation in their houses or simply due to the state of the walls/planks.
We saw the needs, and addressed them appropriately. And I too was blessed by it.
So, shopping, teaching, giving. It was a great day. 🙂 Just another day in my Lumos project. Also, in case anyone was wondering, I am doing fantastically splendiforous! Just continuing to have a wonderful time here with the kids, helping out with Charis, going into the community and so on. It’s pretty great. 🙂 I’m thoroughly enjoying it and learning a lot from it. But yeah! Life! 🙂 Life with a new perspective. Sobering, but cool. And good. Very good indeed.