"Here in Lebanon, the government does nothing for us. We don't have water, we don't have electricity, we don't have good healthcare. Ah... but we live a very good life. Do you want to know why? I'll tell you why."
Tummy full from a feast of all the best Arab foods - taboule, stuffed cabbage leaves, mujadera, mutabbel, kibbe sanieh, kibbe nayeh, rocket salad, fried potatoes, etc - we were sitting around the dinner table watching the men sink deep into an impassioned discussion of politics. It sounded to me like one of those treatments of the topic in which the men just wanted to argue. Well, at least one of the men had some stuff he really wanted to say.
Us women rolled our eyes and wondered if we should start our own conversation or clear the table. Then our hostess, my friend's aunt, looked me straight in the eyes and told me she was going to tell me why Lebanon is so great.
So I nodded and asked her to go on. You can't visit Lebanon and fail to notice that that even the wealthiest houses have problems accessing drinking water and electricity and Internet service providers. And sure, poverty is widespread. Even so, life in Lebanon is good! Good food, good restaurants and cafes, luxury all around.
She continued with a gleam of pride in her eyes: "It's because we help each other and we help ourselves. Our electricity cuts off several hours a day, so what do I do? I sign up for a shared generator with my neighbours. Sure, we pay a lot for that generator use, but that's what I put my money into; don't think I'm going to pay the government very much at all for the few hours of electricity they give me...
"Someone in the family is sick. We're not going to go to a public hospital and wait to get treated. No, we take them to private healthcare.
"A government employee's salary is, say, 350. But to rent a house large enough for a family of five or six people will cost 600. What do we do? Well, we go out and get other jobs! Work two or three jobs if you need to. Don't sit back and complain."
This was probably the first time in my life that I'd heard someone speak with contentment about lack of outside support. She was proud because she could make her own way - she and her family and her neighbours. It's not suffering, it's an opportunity.