11 April, 2012

Black Flags

Megan said it's been a while since I blogged and some of you might want to hear my thoughts for once.  So, Mom, here you go!

We do a lot of walking to get around, which probably doesn't surprise you because most Americans have heard that about Europe.  More often than not, we walk along the same stretch of buildings near our flat as we come and go.  One day as we were returning from the grocery store, I noticed that one of those buildings had placed a black flag in their flag holder (most all residence buildings have them near the entrance).  I inquired of a friend of ours as to why they had done that.

"Oh, one of the residents must have passed away".

Over the next couple weeks, we actually saw 3 or 4 buildings on that stretch with black flags out front.  We were a little shocked too, wondering at so many deaths in such a small amount of time.  There's nothing nefarious about this story, no killing spree or anything like that.  In fact, we still don't know what happened, but that's not the objective of this blog.  I was struck by the tradition of the black flags themselves.

I want to prepare the soil a little before I go on.  We've only been in Hungary for 4 months now and any attempt at interpreting anything we've observed is most likely rooted in ignorance.  However, there are a couple general impressions that have been made on us by interacting with Hungarians.  One of them is that in comparison to Americans (I should really say, 'Texans'), the people in Budapest are MUCH quieter and more reserved while in public.  In fact, the people in our building really keep to themselves too.  There's not much of a sense of community that we've noticed, and that's a little ironic.

When our team leader first visited our flat, he was really intrigued by the layout of the building.  There are only 5 flats to a floor and they all share a common space that gives us access to the stairs, the lift and a set of windows that overlooks the amazing courtyard we share with about 20 other buildings.  Our building was designed to facilitate community among the tenants.  Communism, however, apparently destroyed that sense of community (hence the irony).  The years after WWII under a communist government taught people to look out for themselves because everybody else was out to take advantage of them.  Not just other nations, but anybody outside your family or those select few you called 'friends'.  It's been almost 23 years since Hungary switched from communism, but the sense of community is nowhere near what it is in Texas.

Bring in the black flags.  In my mind, they're a way for the building to band together in a way they don't normally and to proclaim to the neighborhood that the people inside are hurting.

Good times and bad times bring us together like nothing else.  I can't help but feel that these flags are proof that somewhere, deep down, people here want to be a part of a group.  They want people that love them and will help take care of them and want to return that love and care.  I believe strongly that the church is what they're searching for.  We're not meant to live alone, it's the first thing God said was NOT good about creation and the reason He made Eve for Adam.

The flags give me hope that the people we meet and get to know are open to what we want to share with them.  Pray for us that we invest the time necessary to learn their language so that we can actually communicate, and for courage to go out into this city to meet them.

And now for something completely different, here are some pictures of the performance hall inside Duna Palota (Danube Palace) where we attended a chamber concert a couple of weeks ago

If you look closely at this last one, you'll see Megan patting her 'do.  Sadly, she's sitting down so you can't see how absolutely GORGEOUS she looked that evening!