poverty stats

NGO’s find up to 3 million Hungarians living in poverty.  Click here.

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story

“Stories need time (and so do we).” 

“Stories cannot happen in an instant.  They need room–temporal, psychological, metaphysical–to unfold.  Stories relate action “over time.”  Because stories happen over time, there is the chance for change, on the part both of characters and of readers.  This links stories to hope.  Things can be different than they presently are or seem doomed to become.  And we, if we enter into the story and allow it to make its appeal, can be changed too.  And sometimes we wil be changed by the story of a character who refused to change.”

“The power of an imagined end, and it literally can only be imagined, lies in its ability to influence present choices.  Most characters, in life and in fiction, have some notion, however hazy or unarticulated, of what would constitute a successful life for them.  They have an idea of how they would like to “end up.”  That idea, that imagined end, can be as powerful as anything in the given of beginnings in determining the direction of our lives.”

-Daniel Taylor, professor of Literature and Writing at Bethel College, “In Praise of Stories”

suffering and social justice

Witnessing the recent protests, riots, economic troubles, and tremendous political divisions juxtaposed with a deep remembrance and sense of solidarity over the 1956 revolution, I’ve really been impacted by the basic human cries for freedom and justice.  With friends on both sides of the fence here, I’m certainly glad to be an outsider, to claim some level of ignorance, to be allowed a neutral standpoint on these tough issues.  Yet, living in Budapest as “outsiders” we have felt our hearts connecting in progressively deeper ways to the present and historical experiences of our Hungarian friends. 

The truth is that most Hungarians are suffering economically, living paycheck to paycheck, unemployment is rising fast and will continue to rise over the next couple years, and homelessness will become even more prevalent.  In light of all of this, our hearts are aching.  We have a mixture of feelings.  We live in a comfortable flat in northern Budapest where the air is a little cleaner than it is 5 miles to the south.  For this we can occassionally feel guilty.  Guilty because yesterday, while riding the train into the city-center, a homeless man in his 40’s sat down beside me, unshaven, smelling of alcohol and body odor, whereas I was wearing clean clothes, carrying my cool black bag, traveling to my next English lesson.  Is this just?

I’ve been deeply impacted by the remembrance of the 1956 revolution here in Budapest.  It was fifty years ago, yet most Hungarians, young and old, have a tremendous awareness and sense of identity with those freedom fighters who fought and died trying to reclaim their country.  The few weeks of fighting in 1956 were brutal for both Hungarians and Russians, and it is clear that this sort of experience changes a person, a people, and a culture.  Human history is indeed full of atrocity, but from where I stand, the human heart is not made for atrocity or these kinds of injustice.  Within the human heart there remains a hint, or an echo of something good, something that grates against suffering and social injustice, something that cries out for the well-being of others. 

If a 50 year old crushed revolution can have such a deep and lasting impression in the Hungarian soul, what are the effects of the many other injustices occuring around the world today?  Darfur for example (Thanks Tom for the link and helping me think about this).

I’m encouraged though, that one small action can have a meaningful impact, and possibly a ripple effect through a family, a community, or even a culture.  Some of you know of “Nexus” the non-governmental organization we have been developing over the last few months.  You’ll definitely hear more about this as time goes by.  Through Nexus, and with the brain and heart power of a few Hungarian friends, we are beginning to tackle injustice in a couple tangible ways.  I’m looking forward to writing about some hopeful and developing programs at a local orphanage where there are 62 kids, 65% Gypsie, many of whom will not find work and will become homeless when they graduate and leave. 

In spite of the current sharp ideological and political divisions here in Budapest, I sense a common drive for compassion, for social justice and for the common good.  It’s nothing new of course.  I think these are basic human thirsts which call out for a present and continual “revolution” of the heart.

1956 Revolution

Today was a special day in Hungarian history, October 23rd.  This days marks the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet control in 1956.  Read an excellent account of this uprising on Voice of America.

On October 23rd, 1956, the Hungarians took back control of their country for two weeks before the Soviets brutally crushed the uprising.  Thousands were killed, and almost 250,000 Hungarians fled the country…many to the U.S. 

Andrew Vajna, who fled Hungary in 1956 and is now big time Holywood producer, has recently put together an amazing film about the revolution called “Freedom’s Fury.”

october 23rd

October 23rd, 2006.  If you don’t know about the current riots and protests in Budapest today (and over the last few weeks), you can read the flurry of articles posted on the BBC.  See some pictures from today

just a thought

Today, Jacob (3) said he wants a pet tiger.  And he seemed serious.  So I thought to myself, “why not?”  And then I thought, “well…, it might eat us.”  Then I thought, “but we only live once.  Why are we so timid to do things that are slightly risky?”  Then I thought, “Oh yea…, but the tiger would definitely eat us.” 

Dang.  This is too bad.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to buy your little boy a real tiger?  That would be so exciting.