Mari K Hanchar is spending a year of service in Hungary as part of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program. A recent entry in her blog, “The Hungarian Experience: a year of servanthood,” is about love for one another and the special way she recently experienced it. The program relies on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance. To support a coordinator, go to www.ELCA.org/4missionaries.
It’s been almost one month since I arrived in Nyírgyháza (Sept. 10 was the official move-in date). Many people have shown me, an outsider, kindness. I have numerous stories, but this one is special to me.
When I first arrived at my home, I was at a loss for what to eat. My host family had food, but I had no idea what to do with the contents in the fridge. There were hot dogs, cheese, milk, butter, jam, meats and of course paprika. When it came time for breakfast, I usually settled on bread with jam. By the end of week two, I was craving some comfort food. When I went to the grocery store with my family, I found what I had been looking for: cereal. I love cereal.
I went to pick out my favorite kind, Cinni Minis (Hungary’s version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and then looked at the price. I was shocked at how expensive cereal was. It’s not outrageous but comparatively, it’s expensive, especially on a stipend budget. I decided to purchase a box for the comfort of having familiar food in the house.
My host family didn’t have cereal in the house. I think it’s partially because it’s costly, but I also believe it’s a cultural difference. Breakfast often consists of bread, meat and cheese.
About one week ago, I went downstairs for breakfast before work. My host mom wanted to show me something in the kitchen. I followed her and saw that she was pointing to the four boxes of cereal on the windowsill. In Hungarian, she told me that the cereal was on sale so she bought some. I had a huge smile on my face and my heart was filled with warmth by her kind gesture. I repeated “thank you” many times and gave her a big hug. I happily went to work taking the feelings of love with me.
When I returned from work a while later, I went into the kitchen. I was fumbling around for something and then looked over at the gift of the cereal, smiling. I glanced down from the windowsill and to my surprise, there were NINE more boxes of cereal stacked up on the ground. My heart skipped a beat, and for a second I lost my breath. The warm feeling in my heart returned and quickly spread throughout my body giving me chills. I was taken aback, and I could feel my eyes watering up. I stood in the kitchen a while dumbfounded and amazed.
This gift was and remains meaningful to me. It was more than the gift of cereal; it was the gift of comfort. It was the gift of acceptance into the family. It was the gift of kindness to someone she barely knew. It was the gift of love.