Thursday, March 31, 2011

making the best... of everything

"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.



13 comments:

LauraX said...

This is so beautiful Kati. Indeed, life is what we make it, and wealth and contentment come to those who feel deeply connected to their community and are willing to work together to create happiness for everyone.

happygirl said...

I LOVE this woman. She makes ME proud to be a woman. I love the pride she has in herself, her abilities, and her country. She may not like the government, but she knows whining about it won't turn the lights on. Thank you for writing and good luck in Lebanon.

David N. said...

But what about the ones who CAN'T just do a little more to support themselves? That's where lack of government (or church or community) support becomes a problem.

I'm not trying to be contrary, as I like this woman's perspective, but I know there are some of "the least of these" who are not able to follow that pattern, and fall through the cracks.

Lisa notes... said...

Such an interesting perspective from somewhere we would count as horrible. I like it! If we're truly meant to find contentment in any situation, this woman has succeeded. I imagine she makes a very good neighbor. :-)

I always love reading your exotic stories, Kati. It enriches my own life to hear how others live.

Cathy said...

You are an inspiration and this piece is so beautiful and so very hopeful. And hope and faith of some type are the beginning of all things.

Jodi said...

When I was a child I lived in the city with my grandma. If you got sick, everybody knew about it, and sent soup and well wishes. That's how neighborhoods here used to be. One year my daughter delivered Christmas cookies to next door neighbors and they looked at her as if she had two heads. Thank you for sharing this, Kati, it is hopeful.

Brian Miller said...

and that is what i call community...wouldnt it be cool if that was the way it was here...perhaps we need just a bit more tension in our lives...

Deidra said...

It's all about community, isn't it? No matter what the circumstance.

Thanks so much for visiting me! I'm glad you dropped by so that I could "meet" you!

Tamara @ Living Palm said...

I love reading your posts -- feels like I'm getting a little bit of global travel in vicariously!

happygirl said...

Happy April Fools Day. Check out my blog today. ...there's something there that might make you happy. Or at least smile!

emily wierenga said...

oh wow. this humbles me so much. kati, thank you, for bringing beautiful lebanon and all of its wealth into our homes. how i miss it.

Joybird said...

I do like this community perspective. But I have to tell you Kati, I was a little distracted by your description of dinner. I'm not even that hungry right now but the meal sounds amazing. (sorry this isn't deep, but that's my honest gut reaction) yum.

alittlebitograce said...

Such a beautiful description of community. And dinner!

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