Telling someone that they can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is not dissimilar to telling someone that they can’t be happy because someone else may have it better. However as I was hitchhiking through Romania with a couple of friends last week, we were picked up by a driver who told us his tale of woe. Here is a loose translation.
“Three years ago, the Romanian government decided to restructure the payment of civil servants in Romania and reduced both the salary of my wife and I to just 500 Lei per month (around £96 / $155). They took away all our benefits and bonuses, leaving us with almost nothing to support ourselves and look after our six year old son. My wife, unable to cope, then decided to take her own life by drinking Sodium Hydroxide. She didn’t drink enough for a quick death and for two weeks, she lived in hospital, only smoking because she wasn’t able to eat or drink. I held her in my arms as her body finally gave up and she died.
Before my wife died, her father became sick. He had lung cancer. Rather than telling my father-in-law about his illness, we persuaded the doctors to keep it a secret and my wife and I would pay the bill for his surgery. He had surgery to remove one lobe of his lungs and still has no idea that he had cancer or what the operation was really for. When my wife committed suicide, he was very unhappy and now refuses to speak to me or acknowledge my existence.
Without my wife, my household salary was halved and I had to sell my apartment. My son and I moved to a small village where I built most of the house myself. It has taken several years to do it and now my son is nine years old, but I just finished constructing a bathroom with a shower.
Right now my salary is 530 Lei a month and I now get the benefits of driving a car when I need to [this is the car he picked us up in and drove us in]. I am actually a trained mechanic and I have a driver’s license for all large categories of truck: If it wasn’t for my son, I could drive trucks and make money, but I want to stay close to him. But more than that, if it wasn’t for my son, I would kill the president. It is his fault and his government who has caused us to live like this and if it didn’t mean leaving my son alone, I would kill him. Slowly.”
His story was a tragic one and a clear reminder to take advantage of life when we have the chance. Despite his problems, this man battled on and was kind enough to help us on our way for 100 km because he hasn’t yet given up hope (for his son), despite everything. When you have a little problem (the train is late, the supermarket runs out of fresh bread, the boss makes you work 30 minutes extra, your phone doesn’t have signal…), remember that it is only that: a little problem.
Thanks to my friend, Laurentiu, for the translation. The featured image is artwork by Kentaro Minoura, a Japanese artist. No copyright infringement intended.