It all starts with a quote I have read not so long ago: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” You know when you are casually scrolling down on social media and something catches you eye all of the sudden? Well, that kind of happened when I saw this. But it wasn’t until last weekend I have started making some connections in my head regarding this quote.
On Sunday I went on a little trip with an off-road community and my father to some small villages in the north western part of Romania. They are not that far away from one of the biggest and richest cities in the country (which also happens to be my home town) Cluj.
We loaded the cars full with presents, food, toys. Maybe you’ve heard about the concept or the idea of Shoebox. It’s a sort of a project in which you put together a Christmas present for a child in one of your old shoeboxes, decorate it nicely with Christmas wrapping paper and then you or some volunteers deliver it to the child. In Romania it is a very popular project: companies do it, NGOs do it, shortly – a lot of people.
Well, coming back to my starting point, on our trip I have seen a lot of poor families, and I mean very, very poor. I don’t believe I can really imagine what it is like to live the life they do. In a way I feel empty and guilty because not so far away from my very fortunate lifestyle there are people living with the bare minimum. It’s tiring and it feels hopeless to see village after village, house after house, mothers with 3, 4 or even 5 children that barely have a roof over their heads. And don’t make a mistake: these mothers (and also these fathers) do work or at least did have a job before the pandemic has started. The most tragic story occurs when they work, but are still not able to provide their families with a decent life. This only makes me wonder “What do we as a society do so wrongly that this kind of situation becomes reality?”
At some point, I could have guessed at which houses we would stop because most of them had freshly washed (most probably by hand) children clothes lying on the fences in front of the house to dry. In December. Outside, in the cold.
Apart from seeing this sad and disturbing image hour after hour, house after house, village after village, it came to my realisation that one thing all these houses had in common was order. These families, though poor, managed to keep their houses as clean as possible and their gardens well-organised. So, I take it that being poor and being uneducated don’t go always hand in hand.
Even though life is very, very tough for these parents, they fight to find a way to send their children to school. Because they know that the only way they can beat poverty is through education, they know that the only way their children will have a better future, a real roof under their heads and a decent, perhaps even good lifestyle is through studying and entering a different world.
I have looked in the eyes of these children and to my surprise, they were joyful. I can’t describe in words their happiness, their facial expression when they received the Christmas gifts from the volunteers. Something like this is priceless to see, simply because nowadays it’s so rare that we appreciate a gift, or a situation – most of us don’t really realise how lucky we are. But those children felt not only lucky, but really happy. That was all that matter that day – a Christmas gift. In a way they may be blessed with the joy of the little things, but seen from another perspective they experience life at its hardest.
Coming back to the quote from the beginning, I believe that no matter the financial, nor the cultural background, the religion beliefs, race, nationality, place of birth, if loving and caring for your family comes as a priority, the unbelievable can be achieved. Trust, discipline, vision. Maybe these parents wouldn’t describe it like that, they will simply put it: school is important, getting a good education is necessary to improve your life. I have noticed their love for their children in the small gestures, their protective body language and their simple, very empathic look in their eyes.
I wonder how this world would look like if we would train empathy and caring for each other within more families; if children would learn to give and receive love from a young age. Maybe I am idealistic and naive, but this is part of their education too. I see this as the only way we can put behind us this sick mentality of stepping over dead bodies to receive more money, more luxury, more, more, more. It’s cruel and it isn’t human, but taking care of your family and teaching your kids simple life values is.