Every March 8 is International Women’s Day, and in Romania that means… grannies get helped off the trams.
One of my favorite things about Romania is when you get to see some young guy stop and give an old lady his seat, help her down from the tram, carry her groceries, cross the street, etc.
Almost every day, I’ll see young guys flexing their chivalry muscles for the older women in the city. It’s one of those really cool, old-fashioned kind of things that I wish would happen more often in America and more “prosperous” nations.
So it’s not unusual to see young guys go out of their way to give deference to older women, but International Women’s Day was a real treat. In the space of 45 minutes, I got to see 3 women helped off the trams, one carried in the arms of two young knights in shining armor, one woman helped across a puddle, five women who had doors held open for them obscenely long amounts of time, and countless others who were given free flowers from McDonald’s as well as some other business courting new customers.
Sometimes, Bucharest is a mystery to me. In the same city where random drunk men will grab at women’s bodies and whistle cat calls, where you can watch the guys undress the girls with their eyes, where women are encouraged to pursue “jobs” in massage parlors, prostitution, and web cam modeling, where sex trafficking is a very real issue… you’ll find guys holding doors for women, helping them across puddles, and giving up their seats on the bus.
People are complicated.
Last week, I had a meeting with a good friend of mine, Camil. He’s one of my favorite people in Romania, because he looks at life differently and has a unique way of thinking about God. I guess we all have our own unique way of thinking about God, but I like Camil regardless.
While we were thinking and talking and discussing, Camil brought up three words for “love” in Greek thinking – eros, philios, and agape. “Eros is the base, sexual, physical kind of love… Philios is the comforting, friendship kind of love… But agape is the epitome of love, the most advanced form of love, the love that Christianity brought to the world, God’s kind of love.”
“Agape, this is the love you’re trying to bring,” he said, looking at me. “This is the love you’re talking about, the self-sacrificing love like Jesus showed.”
That is the goal, yes, and sometimes I achieve it.
On my way home after our meeting, I got a call from my friend Daniel: “Jake, we will build your shelves tomorrow.”
Weeks ago, I had told Daniel I wanted to buy some shelves for our kids’ clothes, to replace the suitcases we’ve been using. “No, don’t buy shelves,” he had told me. “I know how to build furniture. Let me build them for you.”
“OK,” I had told him, “when we have some extra money, I’ll let you know and you can help me build the shelves.”
Flash forward a couple weeks. I had some extra money, so Daniel came over early in the morning, drew up the plans for the shelves, and then we both walked to the hardware store to buy everything. Well, the hardware storeS. We visited five different places to get everything we needed. By the time we were done, we had walked through freezing rain and wind carrying piles of wood, tape, screws, and tools. And we were beat. I joked with Daniel that he owed me money for letting him help, considering all the free exercise coaching I was providing him.
He left and I told him, “Let’s leave the wood here for now, and maybe in a few days we can build the shelves. When you have the time.”
So he called me a couple days later, because his Saturday was suddenly free, informing me, “Tomorrow we will build your shelves.”
We planned to meet at 3pm. Daniel got there at 2:40pm. I got there at 3:30pm. By the time I got home, he was already well on his way toward finishing, and together we built four brand-new shelves.
Now that’s agape love.