I came to know Tibi as
soon as I visited Salard for the first time. I was trying to remember
when was that, but couldn’t, but definitely sometime in the spring of
2009. What I do remember was the extreme poverty, terrible conditions
the people lived in, the thick mud and the smell just as thick, so
sticky and deep that my shoes were literally pulled off several times!
I remember it was a Sunday afternoon when I joined a mission team that
went there to visit and so I came to see what the tough living I had
heard about, really was… And in fact, I’d never before seen such
Tibi was taken to our
bus for the food distribution. I could immediately tell that he could
not see, because his wife Lili, was carefully holding his arm and
guiding his steps through the anxious crowd waiting for the food bags.
People were pushing and yelling, something I later learnt was just
their regular communication method, but Tibi waited for his turn
calmly and patiently and when he finally received his bag, he said
"Thank you!" and slowly stepped away, accompanied by his wife,
grateful and happy to receive a nice gift that Sunday afternoon.
That image stayed with
me and then slowly, once I got more and more involved with the
community, I came to know him better and often we talked about the
various issues he needed to deal with and I found out a lot about his
situation. He told me he was blind, as in he could only see very
strong light, like sunlight, but not much else at all. He had lost his
sight many years ago, being a genetic condition that many of his
family has. I felt sorry for him. He appeared to me as a very
intelligent person, well-behaved and well mannered, having a very
coherent and pleasant way to talk and interact.
In October 2009, Tibi
and wife received a brand new converted container from Smiles, to
replace their collapsing mud brick house. It was a very rewarding
afternoon for me to be there and to participate with the visiting team
for the instalment of their new house. Tibi and Lili stood together
and I could see tears of joy in their eyes, finally they were moving
into a proper place, for the first time in their lives.
It was very impressive
to me to see how Tibi sees living. As a paradox, he had a better
vision than many others. Despite his disability, he would often take
his bike, an old rusted but trusted Russian bicycle and he went to
bring wood. He told me he was not scared at all driving his bike,
because he came to know every hole and every stone on the road and
these were not obstacles anymore, but rather guidance for him to keep
the right direction!
I thought what a
lesson! And such a universal truth in it! It takes a deeper sense, to
be able to use the barriers as guiding lines – we all need to do this
more often! And there is also a little bit of a funny story about
this: Tibi told me one morning he went, as usual, to collect dry wood.
Unlike other mornings, a cart was park on the side and of course, as
he couldn’t see it, he went straight into it. Then, he slide into the
ditch, and because it’s a steep one, he couldn’t come out – he was
there, in the ditch for about two hours, until someone passed by and
rescued him! But all in good spirit, Tibi was not discouraged. Next
morning he went again.
Tibi kept very busy
all the time. No sight, but neither time to loose. He would go around
and collect various plastic or metal scrap, sort it and take it to the
recyclers. This way he could make some money to cover some of his
basic needs. Then, once in a while, he would come in Oradea and do the
same, collecting plastic bottles or scrap metal and when he would go
back he could take a bag with some food!
Two years ago, I was
very happy to be able to complete all the paperwork needed, so Tibi
could benefit from a special pension from the state for his
disability. The procedure was long and complicated, but we succeeded
and so, at least in his last years, the life was a little bit easier
for him. Also, as his medical condition got worse, we helped him for a
good while to get his medicine and take the treatment.
As his wife Lili died
four years ago, being alone was not easy for Tibi. But he was never
down, or not for very long, never defeated, always brave and active
and truly an inspiration in many ways. For me, it was quite a
remarkable situation and he was a remarkable person. I will remember
him as one of the beneficiaries or our support that not only received,
but definitely had something to offer too. And that was his
determination to never give in, despite all the difficulties!
And that drives me to
my last note. I remember three or four years ago, Tibi built a fence
around his container. He used of course the most common wood available
in there, which is the willow. He cut the pillars, made the fence, all
was done. Then, about a week later, as this was in spring or summer, a
little green leaf showed-up on the wood. Then another and another one.
Soon, all the pillars were covered in new, fresh leaves, even though
those pillars were dead wood when he placed them! Amazingly, the water
from the soil went up the dead willow and
made it alive again, producing a new life, evident through those
little leaves… I thought and I even said it at the time that such a
‘miracle’ could only happen in Tibi’s yard!
always, thank you for your kind support given to the Smiles
programmes. Thank you also for the emails you sent to me and be sure I
will continue to stay in touch with you, as there are still so many
other stories from our projects that need to be told! May God bless
you in all things!