Tandem Stories: The life lesson

Life lesson: things aren't always as they seem

Every week Balkan Hotspot EVS volunteers are the host for a language exchange event: “Tandem”. For me, in more than eight months of living in Thessaloniki and attending Tandem almost weekly, I can say that I’ve met quite a lot of people there. People with amazing life stories, people from all over the world, travellers, students, professionals and so on. This story is however not about someone that I’ve met in Tandem, but about someone that I’ve met in front of Bord de l’eau. This person had an amazing life story, but I’ll talk rather about the life lesson that I learned that evening.

I remember it quite clearly, it was early March, cold weather, ten o’clock in the night, almost raining and everything around was new for me. It had been about three weeks since I moved here and I was still in a stage of cultural shock.

There, he approached me – an old guy, over 65-70 years old, all messy, dirty clothes, homeless looking like, that kind of person that if you studied a bit about the organised burglary and how the mechanism of mercy works, you wouldn’t pay too much attention. Our brain is like a lightning strike – finding the fastest way to the ground, to the point to reach. He started talking to me in Greek and I replied shortly without trying to understand “Δεν μιλώ ελληνικά”– “I don’t speak Greek”. He continued to talk to me in Greek and thus I replied to him in English: “I don’t have any money. I’m a student and you didn’t find the right guy to ask money from,” without any hard feelings.

Life lesson: things aren't always as they seem
Things are not always as they seem

The coat doesn’t make you who you are

I had no idea what was going to come next, but he replied to me: “You don’t speak Greek? But you speak English. No worry, we can talk in English. I was asking you if you can help me turn on my phone, I need to make a call and this technology is overwhelming to me.” At this point, he took an old, quite rusty and turned off smartphone out of his pocket.  Then he looked into my eyes and said: “Why did you think that I was asking money from you, why does everyone think that I’m asking for money? Why does everyone expect that I am poor? Look at your clothes, look at your shoes. Don’t you have money?” Taking out of his pocket some euro bills, he said: “Here, take some money, if that’s what you need to be happy!”

I was speechless and so I remained. Each of us can learn their own lesson from this story, mine is quite obvious. Sometimes, things are not what they seem to be, everyone has a story behind and for sure, as an old Romanian phrase says – “The coat doesn’t make you who you are”.

-------------------------------------------------------------- SHARING IS CARING! --------------------------------------------------------------


  1. This short story had such a powerful message to give. We usually judge people on the basis of their appearance and dressing, which is so wrong! Some people have everything in life but they are so down to earth that they don’t show it off. On the other hand, there are people who have little money but try to dress well, eat well etc. because it makes them happy.


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