Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Embarrassment of Riches

On Friday night, we took the Romanians grocery shopping. What usually takes us an hour, took nearly four, by the time we picked them up, tried to explain American food, chased the little girl all over creation, then took the them home, showed them how to use their electric oven, etc.

Then on Saturday, Dan went to help a professor friend move some furniture. It was sweat equity in exchange for use of his friend's truck to pick up some furniture we bought from some friends of ours. Problem was that the truck was too small. So a job that should've taken 3 hours, turned into all day.

Meanwhile, I went for a 13 mile run, then went to tell the Romanians that Dan wouldn't be by with their sofa (our old one) until much later in the day. I ended up taking Camelia and the kids to the library and then to Hermann Park to see the ducks. When I dropped them back at home, I felt so bad for the kids (they were bored silly) that I went out and bought them a TV. (Yeah, I'm an old softie sometimes.)

By now it was almost 3:00 and I still hadn't eaten after my big run, except for a cup of yogurt. So I went to Central Market and got some goodies from the deli, but had to stop off at the pet store on the way home and get bunny food and litter. And as luck would have it, there were two cashiers on duty and at the head of each loooooong line was some fool with a complicated transaction involving returns, coupons, rain checks, Golden Tickets and radioactive waste. Why I'm not still waiting in line is both a mystery and a miracle.

I got home, grumpy and shaking with hunger, only to field a phone call from the hubby telling me to clear the entryway and lock up the bunny in the bedroom so she wouldn't be underfoot when he and his friend delivered our furniture. That required an additional fifteen minutes of work, primarily in finding things to block the bunny from going under the bed. But finally I settled down to eat my now-cold lasagna, which I ate so quickly I don't think I got a chance to taste it. Then I put in some earplugs and took a nap.

When I woke up, we had gorgeous new furniture! Yay! But it was so much bigger than the old stuff, that now the living room was all out of proportion. So we moved furniture around until midnight. We raised up just enough old dust and bunny fur that I developed an entertainingly serious asthma attack that didn't respond to meds and required a boost from a couple cups of strong coffee.

Oh, yeah. Coffee at midnight. I was up until 4:00 am!

I thought today would be quieter and I'd be able to get some writing done, but after a morning run and lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant, we dropped by the Romanians' apartment to drop off a DVD player we no longer needed. They were so obviously eager to get out and do something, that the next thing I knew, we were driving them around town. We showed them how to get to the nearest Social Security office, then showed them some of the local sights and ended up going out for coffee. We lingered for awhile, then took them to a park so the little girl could run around a bit. I hung out with the boy, Catalin, and found that he's just a step away from being a triathlete-- he likes swimming and mountain biking, and distance running. I made arrangements to do some Saturday runs with him, and promised to take him to my YMCA on Sunday mornings. I figure once he starts school, he can join the cross country team.

It was nearly 6:00 before we got home, and meeting my parents for dinner was just not in the cards.

I don't know where my weekend has gone!

But I've been really impressed by how nice people have been to this Romanian family. Dan's professor friend gave them a table and two bookcases. A friend at work promised to get radios for them and pay for six months of basic cable TV. Another friend offered to take them to dinner. And one of their neighbors gave them a desk and a set of chairs.

This has been an opportunity for me to see some interesting things about American culture through other eyes, and one thing that I'm really struck by is how rich we are, even those of us who are poor by the standards to which we aspire. In Romania, this family was solidly middle class. He was an electrical engineer, and she was a nurse and published writer of children's books. But they didn't have a refrigerator, freezer, air conditioning, microwave oven, or a dishwasher. In America these things are common among all but the very poorest.

I've been struck for the second time since Hurricane Katrina by how generous we are in this country. But I'm also starting to really understand how rich we are, even those of us who can recite a litany of ways in which we have failed to keep up with the Joneses. If you're reading this blog on a computer in your own home, if you have food in a refrigerator, clothes you never wear, furniture you never use, an air conditioner cooling your home and a running vehicle or two (or three) in your garage or driveway, you're richer than the middle class of all but a handful of nations.

Rejoice in your riches, friends!

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 13 mile run
Sunday: 6 mile run


Rachel said...

Good point. We are so blessed.

Sounds like a crazy weekend. I HATE not eating after a run! Make sure you get the rest you need! The bunnies will thank you.

nancytoby said...

Nice post! I was reminded about air conditioning as one of the things we take for granted when I read about one of the Tour de France riders blaming the a/c for giving him a cold. Guess he doesn't use it that often, eh?

Sherri said...

thank you for this post! it's great to be reminded of the importance of keeping things in clear perspective. i hope you've caught up on some rest. if i ever move from one part of the world to another, i hope i have a friend like you on the other end!