By ANNA JANKOVICH
One evening last week, I decided to go to the Keleti train station, in Budapest, with 13 pairs of sports shoes for the migrants who were stranded outside the barricaded station heavily guarded by an army of police. What could I expect? I was feeling tense, excited, anxious and curious. Driving up to the station, the crowds were astounding.
Before coming out with my bags, I tried to scout out the Aid desk where volunteers were welcome with their supplies. There was such a mass of bodies that it was not easy to find the spot and the feeling became overwhelming. Distribution would have to be done myself. Was this a good idea? Is it safe to do this alone? Would I feel or cause any tension? The unknown was waiting.
Having walked back to the car, taken a deep breath, I hoisted my large bag over my shoulder. A group of families lying on the pavement with many children caught my attention and I asked if anyone spoke English and wanted some shoes. Their looks were skeptical. Another breath, bent down and opened my plastic bag gesturing to them that they could try them on. Within a minute, about 20 people surrounded me and together, we tried to match the correct pairs and sizes. There was no pushing, no grabbing, no yelling and as individuals found their sizes, it was all smiles and thank you.
I spoke with several of the migrants, all of whom were Syrians. They spoke good English, were kind, polite and educated. Although they were stuck at the station without any hints of what could happen next, they seemed ‘happy’ that they made it this far with their families and that the nights were ‘quiet’ without any bombings or fire shots around them. That perspective had an instant impact and again, a reminder how fortunate many of us are.
Without stepping out into the unknown, I would have continued to read or hear about the migrant’s challenges. I would have stayed with my assumptions, focused on my own perspectives, wondered who these migrants really are and maybe be influenced by what others say or judge. Having taken the initiative to go to the station, to share, to communicate, to ask and to listen, my feelings were happy, proud, and grateful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and get clarity. Every volunteer has that same opportunity and there are hundreds of them in Budapest, who all commit more of their time to help and they should be acknowledged.
What prevents YOU from stepping out into the unknown at work, in the office, with your partner, your family or better yet, yourself?
Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org