“You can complain about your teaching job if you want to,” said my daughter to a staff member at the college where she’s studying, “but let me tell you about Hania and Orko.
“I met Hania and Orko in Ukraine when I was young. Hania used to be a servant in my great grandmother’s home in her youth. She married late in life, so Hania and Orko had no children, no one to take care of them in their old age. And they were old when I met them.
“My parents visited Hania and Orko a few years ago. They brought them a box of chocolates as is customary when visiting friends. They didn’t expect to find Hania and Orko both bedridden, both in the same room and with no food in the house – none but that box of chocolates. The very air in the house screamed despair. Because they had no children, Hania and Orko had signed over their house to their neighbors in return for the neighbors taking care of them. But the neighbors weren’t keeping up their end of the bargain.
“ ‘Sometimes they come so late that we’re asleep,’ said Hania. ‘And sometimes they don’t come.’ So my parents promised to return with some food. They came back an hour later with soup and sandwiches, but in the interim, that box of chocolates had been completely devoured. Maybe they thought my parents wouldn’t return. Maybe they were just that hungry.
“So go ahead, complain about your well-paid job. I’ll listen. And then I’ll tell you another story.”
I was surprised to hear my daughter recount her conversation, delighted that during our many trips to Ukraine and elsewhere, she has learned exactly the lessons I had hoped she would.