Who got the coin on Christmas Eve?

Seven hundred and fifty

I write this week’s column while in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. And it is appropriate — whereas I first visited Macedonia in May of 1996, and then moved here in July of 1996 for what turned out to be a seven-year residence, I first started writing columns for Macedonian newspapers in 2001. And now, back in Macedonia, I have reached 750 columns written in the period since then, columns targeted to and for Macedonians. And besides my columns, there have been many other words and works — papers of various kinds, a monograph, and two books which will hopefully be published sometime this year.

In all of these many years in and with Macedonia, I have been told, by friends, and several times, that I am, in effect, wasting my time by investing my time, and my life, in Macedonia. I will admit that, on a handful of occasions, I have thought the same — what am I doing here? But here is a truth: when I have thought that, or when someone has told me that I am wasting my time, something — an event, a word from someone, something I have read — has refocused my thoughts and reminded me of why I am in and with Macedonia. The details of these I will not go into, but suffice it to say, it has almost been as if I have heard “the small, still voice” that the Old Testament prophet Elijah heard — and you know who that voice belonged to.

Why have people told me I am wasting my time? Why have I thought that very thing, from time to time? I think it is because of the many frustrations that Macedonians have faced and face to this day; those struggles, difficulties, challenges, and often, stupidities either created by outside forces or by some Macedonians themselves that never seem to change or to be solved. Now, it is true that all people, all nations, all cultures have faced these things throughout all of time. Many Western elites will look at Macedonians and blame the culture for these things. I would submit that some of these trials and tribulations are rooted in culture; after all, if Macedonia had been colonized by the English for 500 years instead of the Turks, things would be different here. But more than this, I believe that a greater number of these trials and tribulations come not from Macedonian culture, but from the fact that Macedonia suffered under Communism (and perhaps still does in certain circles and in certain ways). And because it was my desire to see this evil of Communism destroyed that first enticed me into the world of both politics and policy, I think I can understand how the corrupting influences of Communism, through the years and even now (though we would not actually call it “Communism” but something else) have created many of the woes that face Macedonia.

After all, it is the spirit of this age — this corrupting influence of communism, socialism, militant atheism, secularism, the Left (its names are Legion) — it is this thinking that mankind is god and that utopia can be achieved through social engineering and this is all there is — mankind’s ability to dominate and destroy mankind — this is the dangerous and evil thinking and philosophy that has permeated Macedonia, and many other countries over the past century. Go back through the many past decades of Macedonia’s history with this thinking and you might begin to understand how this corruption of thinking, habits, and customs has contributed, greatly and gravely, to the many ills Macedonia, and Macedonians, have suffered.

This is not to say that small “l” liberal democracy combined with capitalism has been perfect or has all the answers. But rightly understood and rightly implemented, it is the most superior system for governing and running an economy ever devised by man. Combine that with a proper understanding of mankind’s relationship to God and then work to make that relationship proper on an individual basis, and you have a recipe for success. Men and women must be right with God, first, before they can ever work to create policy and conditions for a right, and good, society.

Reading my morning devotional on Tuesday, January 7, Christmas Day and here in Macedonia, I came across these words written by Christian author Oswald Chambers (1874–1917): “Friendship is rare on earth. It means identity in thought and heart and spirt.” Having spent so much time with Macedonians who I consider to be not just friends, but family, I think I can say that I am a friend of Macedonia and the Macedonians, wherever they are. I can definitely say that having lived with Macedonians for nearly a quarter of a century, I can identify with Macedonians and with your struggles, your success, your joy, and your pain.

Having just celebrated my first Orthodox Christmas in Macedonia and as a Macedonian Orthodox believer, I find it somewhat ironic that on Christmas Eve, my piece of the pogacha contained the coin. While I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the providence of God. And so I consider this as a good sign from Him who made all good things. I will continue to write and to speak and to support and to love on Macedonia and the Macedonians because I have been given so much and blessed and because I have a duty and responsibility to this. That, and, because Macedonians wanted to be my friend as well. Thank you. I’m grateful to you.

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast