You know these donation boxes at airports, where you are supposed to drop the change that you couldn’t spend during your vacation? Often they are made of glass, for you to see how generous other travelers have been. So you pull the last Transnistrian rubles or Yugoslav dinars from your pockets and donate them for children, against cancer, for or against dogs, maybe even for refugees. Worthwhile causes, all in all.
At the airport in Cluj-Napoca in Romania however, the collection does not serve to mitigate hunger, poverty or disease, but to support a church.
That is a rather surprising act of begging because the Romanian state already finances the building and maintenance of the Orthodox churches in the country, as well as the salaries and pensions of priests and a lot of other frippery. Each year, hundreds of new churches are being built. Even the smallest of villages are bombarded with cathedrals the size of St Peter’s. For that, they often lack a school or a clinic.
But, as it says on the donation box, “God will bless your journey”. Sick children or starving refugees cannot compete with such a lofty promise. Just opposite from the airport, there is actually the Pata Rat slum, where every euro or dollar would help.
Not only was I too stingy to donate for the church, I was also too clever. Because for God to bless the journey, it would be enough if one of the other passengers left a few Romanian lei. After all, God can’t make part of the plane crash and keep the other part flying.