Some people say if you don’t have a profile on facebook or another social networking website, you simply don’t exist. I’m not in favour of this theory, but there is a grain of truth in it. Over the week when I was offline, my high-school classmates organised a Christmas meet-up and notified me via facebook. I learnt about the gathering the day after it was held. I wouldn’t have turned up anyway, as it was held at the same time as Christmas party of my company, but no one considered any other way of getting in touch with me…
The other thing I spotted on facebook last Saturday after logging in was a message from my middle-school classmate. Let’s name him Marek (name deliberately changed, again, I’m sure he at least once visited my blog and is aware of its existence). He asked me to give him my phone number and tell when he could call me, implying the sooner the better. I’m generally sensitised to all requests when I feel I can lend somebody a helping hand and felt a bit guilty, as his message was dated 14 December and I read it three days later. I went for a walk, grabbed my mobile and dialled his number (how come I had his number, he didn’t have mine?).
Marek was more than happy to hear my voice in the receiver. Without even exchanging pleasantries, he cut to the chase and asked if I had lent any money to our classmate, Karol. He left me a bit speechless for a moment, but instead of telling him I had done this mistake, my reply was: “has your money also gone down the drain?” (też utopiłeś pieniądze?).
Marek and I have known each other since we were six. He lived with his mother and sister in a neighbouring block of flats in Piaseczno, we went to the same group in the nursery school and then attended the same class and primary and middle school. We even chose the same high school, I surmise his choice was a bit influenced by mine. Marek’s life has always been uphill. He grew up without father and most of time without any financial aid from him. He has never been really talented (truth be told, even if it’s bitter), but as long as he could, he has made up for his by hard work and consistency. He has always aimed high and never liked to give up on his plans.
Despite financial hardship, Marek managed to put aside some money. In August 2010 he lent a large chunk of it, i.e. 8,000 PLN to our ex-friend, Karol. Unlike me, he secured his interests by signing a loan agreement with the hapless debtor. Until now Karol and his mother have paid him back 5,000 PLN, while 3,000 PLN remains outstanding and odds of getting it back are dwindling. As it turns out, precedence of creditors depends on their capacity to claim their money back. My loan to Karol was backed by gentleman’s agreement; Karol’s mother claims she respects it, yet when others threaten to take steps to recover their money, it’s not hard to guess who’ll be paid off first. Marek is not even better-off, just because his recovery ratio is 62.5%, while mine is 0%. For me 1,000 PLN is not a big sum, compared to my savings and earnings, for Marek 3,000 is much, much more and currently he desperately needs that money.
[insertion: it just occurred to me I could help Marek out and lend him 3,000 PLN, but I won’t…]
With the legally binding obligation to return the money, Marek is going to take the case to the court. Some law students who provide other students with legal advice free of charge have helped him write a claim and in the new year he intends to file a lawsuit against Karol. The case was if I would testify. Without much hesitation I agreed to appear before court. After all I’ll be telling the truth, but maybe I’ll help the guy who’s had it uphill all his life and doesn’t deserve to lose much of his savings. Testifying will not fray my nerves, as I’ve got over the lost money long ago and I won’t forget the story of a guy who used to my good friend, who was an up-and-coming talent and who squandered all opportunities life had offered to him, anyway.
On 9 December I sent to Karol’s family a Christmas card. I packed in an envelope and didn’t sign sender’s name at the back of it, just to give it a chance of not landing in a rubbish bin before being opened.
Just after finished the call with Marek I rang Karol’s mother, immensely curious to find out how the family are doing. What I heard from her has not impressed nor touched me, actually nothing I would hear about Karol would surprise me. Apart from what I listened about misery of Karol’s father who had undergone a surgery and Karol’s senile grandparents (all their ailments are somehow related to Karol having fallen into troubles), I have been informed that Karol is doing a sentence for unpaid debts and since his mother and I last talked, he tried to take away his life three times and is determined to try it again.
The shock came after hanging up. It sank in to me that this woman was at the end of her tether. She’s so tired of what she’s gone through that she doesn’t even appear to be moved by the fact his son wanted to commit suicide it even seems she has already come to terms with the inexorable eventuality of Karol’s suicidal departure.
Maybe the story is not apposite for the Christmas tide, but this the time, when apart from rejoicing, we should think about fellow people’s misery. Remember Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas”, peaked with Bono’s verse “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you”? Cherish what you have, if you can read this post, I bet most people have it worse than you and your problems are laughably small, compared to theirs.
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