Hungary - Hopeful Shoebox Blessings


Article by a Pioneers Field Worker - Hungary

On a cold December evening, people unknown to us started coming in the building. Fear, mixed with hope and confusion, in their eyes.

This was months after arriving in Hungary, yet I didn't need to know the language to understand that lack of hope. Families coming in—all looking longingly at the Christmas tree and boxes under it.  Nearly all did a self-correction and you could nearly hear them thinking, "What am I doing thinking that we might be getting something like that? Who am I? Maybe someday I can provide one for my child..."

Some came in with coats on or heavy sweaters. Some came in with many layers of shirts. Children's eyes would glance again to the tree, to the presents, to parents, then to the floor. The church was filling up. It was apparent that people wore their ‘best’ to this event.

 The 'service' started. Songs were sung and a brief sermon was given.    

One particular family, seated on the side, caught my eye. Glancing at the tree and gifts, then looking at each other as though, "That will never happen to us!" The girl with them would look at the tree and the gifts, but you could tell she was trying really hard not to get her hopes up.

Then the names were being called out—each family was on high alert. I glanced over at the family I had been watching. They looked, then looked down. The girl's first glance was filled with hope, then the realization that younger kids were getting some of these boxes. It looked like she was thinking, "Oh, that will never happen to me. There are lots of people here in the room and lots of kids.” 

Other families whose wee ones did receive a shoebox (many from local donors, often wrapped) would gasp with delight. Sometimes you could hear a bit of the paper being torn, however, most were just savored (they received one of those boxes!) or set aside by the parents to avoid temptation.

All of a sudden the family on the side sat up as though they got a brief jolt—her name was called! Could it really be? "OH, HURRY! They may change their minds! Go get your box!"

She tried to look as calm and collected as befitting her age, but the edges of a smile couldn't be denied. As she sat down, they were touching the box and the paper and ribbon as though they couldn't believe it was real. The parents glanced at each other in awe. They watched their daughter gently stroke and touch each and every part of that box. Hope did not die! She really received a box!! This box had her name on it!

A look around the room revealed many smiles—a rarity in Hungary. There were bits of giggles too

Later, the people started walking out of the church, placing the treasures on the family bicycle to be pushed home. Hope walked out the door with them as well.