August 29, 2015

The Power of the People

Whenever I get back to Lebanon, it takes me some time to get inspired to write again. Inspiration didn’t take long to come along, and presented itself in the form of kindness. And I know, everybody is talking about the garbage and the garbage protest, and I’ll give you my two-cents on it later, but I have to share this story with you. (You don’t have to read it though)

I had to go to the mobile phone company this morning to fix a problem. My daughter was with me, but she gets bored in offices, and wanted to stay in the car. As it is about 35 degrees Celsius in town right now, and I don’t want to end up in the news as the woman who suffocated her child by leaving it alone in a locked car on a warm summer day, I left the AC on. 
That this would result in a very dead car battery should have crossed my mind, but it didn’t. It did when I came back to the car however, and wanted to start the engine. Not even a “weeweewee”.
Now some negative thinkers will argue that abroad you just call the road services (ANWB in Holland), and they come and help you for free (which isn’t quite accurate as it is a service you buy into on a yearly basis).  But it is mechanical, and it is their job. They’re not doing you any favors.
Here, the scenario plays itself differently.
I open the hood and look slightly puzzled. Before I can even check whether I have jumper cables, a gentleman walking to his car with his wife asks if my battery is dead. Do I have jumper cables? No, I don’t.
Wait, let me get my jumper cables and my car.”
He drives his car up to mine, and opens to hood. It doesn’t work,  as his jumper cables somehow do not function well. He apologizes for the fact that he cannot help me.

The gas station across the street sends an attendant with a portable battery and jumper cables. His jumper cables work, but his battery is weak. He apologizes and while thinking of a solution, a girl, also going to the mobile phone company, offers help.
You want me to give you a ride somewhere?” she asks. No, but if we can borrow her battery.
Her battery is brand new, and should work, but somehow we’re having a problem with the jumper cables again. The endings where they should clip on are very tiny.

The parking attendant now passes by and offers to hold them down for the gas station attendant.
No success.

A little scooter with two guys on it stops; they are in the battery business, it seems. They don’t even get off the scooter. With their helmets still on, they  give directions to the two attendants, the girl in the car and me on what exactly to do.   You do this, and then you push that, and you hold that,” it goes. It is slightly comical, but it works. My car is up and running again.
And as quickly as everyone appeared to help, they all disappear again before I can properly thank them again.
Good luck,” says the girl as she drives off. The two guys on the scooter have already zoomed away, the parking attendant walks back to his little window and the gas station attendant is hauling his stuff back to the station.
I have a problem and just like that, six people stop and offer whatever help they can. For no other reason than to be kind and helpful. There’s no money or fame in it (well, maybe with this post there will be).

I have had many experiences like this in Lebanon. And so it is another confirmation – yet again – that it is the power of the people, your plain common folks, which keep this country running. Just keep that in mind. The power is within us. And you can choose to delegate that power, or use it. I say, use it.


Anonymous said...

I had the same experience in Ukraine every time I visited it. Very friendly people, all willing to help. Flat tyre? A local spent three hours helping me getting it fixed. Brake system failing? A garage cleared a service lift and fixed it on the spot, no waiting, and no bill. Once I got stuck in a snow drift and had to abandon my car at night in the middle of nowhere: no sweat, a farmer got his horse and his sleigh and brought me to the next village.

But the country as a whole is fucked up, thanks to the mafia, the EU, Putin, and a powerless incompetent corrupt bureacracy.

So I am not sure how the "power of the people, your plain common folks" will keep your country running. Didn't work out very well in the Ukraine.


Elie Touma said...

Hey, welcome back Sietske to Lebanon. We missed you. Hope you had a wonderful time. Nice article as usual.

Sietske said...

Thank you Elie :)