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Jan Grebski, a 65-year-old Pole recently suddenly and inexplicably emerged from a 19-year-long coma. Mr. Grebski fell into his coma after being hit by a train in 1988, the year before the fall of Communist rule. Recently he told Polish television that “when I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere. Now there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.” According to his wife, Gertruda, “Jan was so amazed to see the colorful streets. He says the world is prettier now.” “These people walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning.

The scene was a bit bizarre because Mr. Grebski woke up to discover the wonders of this world , on the eve of the G-8 summit in Germany where a gaggle of anti globalization activists were gathering to shout out how the world was a much messed up place in a uni polar world. 

The story reminds me of the Biblical character whom Jesus healed after years of lying paralyzed on a mat. The intelligentsia gathered to scrutinize his strange experience with a sheaf of questions but the paralyzed man wasn’t bothered. H was too busy celebrating life. He was also like Mr. Grebski contented with life. He had seen the past, a black and grey life full of deprivation and was suddenly saw life in techni color. The numbers and the grim predictions of the activists didn’t connect with him. The protestors had graphs and charts to bolster their spirits; Mr. Grebski had seen life – literally on both sides of the iron content. And from his experience of life, he knew one thing- he was content and happy.

Although I am no card carrying activist, I have many friends who are on the edge. But activist or not, development practitioners like me typically have our eyes trained to spot what is wrong with our governments, their policies and society in general and like to believe that we know which buttons to punch that will alleviate poverty , remove lack and make life easier for every one.
But the key to contentment and fulfillment does not lie alone with NGOs and charities; or exclusively with governments and their policies. The key lies, as Mr. Grebski shows us is in setting our internal clock so that we learn to be content and know that the secret lies in recognizing the good that exists in life unrecognized and unlamented. For good reasons, Mr. Grebski can not unbderstand why those like his sons and grand sons who do not live in a world of shortages and ration queues and are spoilt for choice , should still moan and grumble about their lot.. And indeed why should they really?
The British columnist, Dominic Lawson asks, “Is anyone in the former Eastern Europe (except possibly ex-secret policemen) absolutely worse off, as a result of the collapse of the centrally managed economies? I was discussing the case of Jan Grebski with a friend in Poland yesterday; she said that she knew “no one, literally no one, who has a lower standard of living than they did under the Communists. Some people are less happy, of course: those who see that their neighbor has a bigger car than they do. And of course, it’s worse in that you can’t find a plumber now that they’re all working in England.” Then she corrected herself: “Actually, that’s not quite right. You could never find a plumber when the Communists were in charge, either: they were all working for the Government.” Clearly , being rich and being contentment is a matter of  perspective and not a matter of having more  and more of this world’s goods as the Bible so wisely reminds us
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