Friday, 18 September 2009

A healthy dose of perspective

AS I cycled to catch my bus yesterday morning at 6am in the lashing rain, I had already planned out my next blog posting in my head.

It was going to be a sort of 'woe-is-me' piece. A tongue in cheek whinge about how awful it was that I had to endure a bit of precipitation at such an unearthly hour. I even had a few hilarious (in my head at least) quips ready to use.

When I got on the bus, however, I got chatting to this elderly gentleman that I had seen before but never spoken to. As with all new acquaintances here, upon hearing my accent the man enquired as to where I was from. After I gave my reply he informed me that he was German but had been living in Canada since he was 14 after fleeing persecution from the Nazis in his home country.

On account of being Jewish, six of the man's family of eight were murdered but he was spared due to his age and his ability to milk a cow which made him more useful, he explained.

With the help of neighbours and friends of their deceased family, he and his 11-year-old sister managed to find their way into Britain. Despite not having a word of English between them, they then got work on a ship that brought them to Canada. He hasn't returned to Germany since and said he couldn't be made go back for all the money in the world.

Within a few years of arriving in Canada, the man's sister married a soldier from the Canadian army. Because of her age - 15 - and there being no possibility of getting her parents' consent, the couple had to receive a court's permission before the marriage could happen.

My new friend found work on the railroad and made his way to Vancouver where he would spent the next 40 years working in a mill on the docks. It was still very early in the morning so I didn't have enough wits about me to ask what kind of mill it was he had worked in or if he had started a family of his own in Canada.

I did find out though, that during all that time spent in the mill, he had cycled an hour and a half to and from work every morning and evening. He had enjoyed being active and having the chance to work, he explained, adding however that he is barely able to walk now and life had been made no easier by him developing cancer.

"It's a struggle, I might not be here to see you on the bus next week but I'm here now," he said with a smile, adding that it was nice to have met someone to talk to on the bus before disembarking at his stop. I hadn't even found out his name.

On my own again, I felt like the greatest jackass alive for even thinking about complaining about some bloody rain and having to cycle a couple of minutes to my bus in the morning.


mapstew said...

As my late Dad was wont to say, "I thought I was poor, 'cos I had no shoes, 'til I met a man who had no legs".

Ponita in Real Life said...

We tend to complain about the littlest things, don't we, thinking they are huge, until we hear of someone whose challenges are hideously massive and yet they still have a positive outlook.

Good on you, young Hoge, for talking with the man. I'm sure you brightened his day. And if you see him again, be sure to talk more, ask his name and all the other stuff. He'd probably love that. And I bet you will too. :-)

T said...

How narrow minded and patronizing can you guys be? For all you know this man may be talking to people on that bus the next day and saying, "I have problems but at least I am not Irish". Have respect and get an idea of who people really are.

dashoge said...

Why are you presuming the worst of the guy T? And how is it narrow-minded and patronising to take an old man at his word?

All the previous two comments were saying - and all I was saying - is that it was a breath of fresh air to come across someone who had endured so much but still managed to maintain a positive outlook on life. I'm sorry I didn't get his whole life story for you so as to verify if he was indeed a sour Irish-bashing geriatric but as I said it was early in the morning.