Yesterday, I was walking the narrow streets of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter – a place that has recently become well-known for its vibrant nightlife and its ruin bars full of life – but for me, this neighborhood will always mean more than a party district as I still remember the days before it was transformed into one of Europe’s largest open space bars.
And the story that I am telling you today took place many years ago, in my early teens – one of the happiest periods of my life. Times when I did not use to worry about money and career or about what I wanted to do with my life. However, just like any other teenager, I had other kinds of problems and one day, I felt hopeless as the guy I had a crush on did not love me back.
I have changed a lot since that day but one thing that has not changed and I think it never will is that I love going for long walks when I feel sad or melancholic. So that’s exactly what I decided to do on that summer day:
Just walking the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, cry and daydream about a life that I thought I would never have. And while wandering the streets, buried deep in my thoughts, I ran into a Jewish lady. She was a friend of my family and she immediately asked me what was wrong. We sat down on a bench and as I knew she would never judge me for who I was and that she would understand the way I was feeling so I decided to tell her everything. That I was in love and that I felt totally hopeless.
She was patiently listening to my story and she answered me by telling the most inspiring tale that I’d ever heard (a Jewish folktale):
“When Elochim (God) created universe, he wanted all of us to be happy and not to have any struggles or misery in our lives. So, He created a perfect world without any sadness or problems. But living a life free of suffering did not make people happy as they were not able to appreciate what they had.
What was meant to be a world of constant happiness and satisfaction turned out to be a meaningless place full of boredom and lethargy.
Elochim saw the world he had created and felt sad for the people living in it. So he decided to make happiness more difficult to find. A treasure that people have to look for and can only have for a limited amount of time.
Because daylight is much brighter after a long, dark night. Spring is more colorful after a grey winter. And happiness is much greater after times of misery.
Paradoxically, having more suffering in this world made people happier as they could enjoy more the things they had and feel more grateful for the gifts of Elochim.“
This story made me cry (again, ’cause I tend to cry a lot – even when I am happy) and made me think about the fact that despite all the terrible things this old lady had survived, she was still more grateful for everything she had than many of us had ever been. And it helped me realize that happiness does not exist on its own – we would never be able to fully experience all the wonderful feelings if we were never feeling sad or hopeless.
I could say that she is no longer with us but I believe in Heaven. And I am sure she’s become an angel who is keeping an eye on me. And she gave me something that I will always be able to hold on to. A beautiful tale that I have not been able to find in any books or on Google and that will always accompany me on my long walks – in the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter.