Awhile ago I wrote another blog about being courageous, and I want to start out with the same reminder as that one:
“Being courageous” doesn’t mean you have to suit up in your armor and go into battle. “Being courageous” isn’t just “for the superheroes”. Being courageous can be taken in strides OR in small steps.
Well, a few weeks ago I was the most courageous I’ve ever felt while being over here. Here’s how it went:
It was a Sunday evening, and I saw on Facebook that I was invited by a fellow YAGM (serving in Budapest) to an event called “Hate Speech: Turning Prejudice into Love” that would be the following day. The event would be in Budapest, but it wouldn’t end until 9. Per my host mom’s request while I decided if I was going to go, if I did, I would have to stay the night with Taylor and come back to Pilis on the morning train. I slept on the idea and thought in the morning, “You know what, this sounds really awesome! I love hearing people’s stories and being able to support those who make themselves vulnerable for the betterment of others. This is such a ‘YAGM’ event for me to go to. I should go, even though navigating the city scares me… It’ll be fine… ”
I messaged Taylor, and she told me I could crash at her place afterward. BUT she said that there would be a possibility that she wouldn’t be going to the event, but if she didn’t she would send me detailed instructions on how to get to her place.
My immediate reaction, “Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t go. What IF she doesn’t come? I’d have to not only find my way to the event alone (without GPS), but also make it to her neighborhood alone. I’m not super comfortable with navigating public transportation. I DEFINITELY don’t want to be alone at night. I’m SO LIKELY to get lost. Budapest is so big… It would so easy to back out of this and say, ‘Ah well, I tried'”.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the words I’ve been using as my ‘motto’ this year, “I need to have courage in order to be vulnerable so I can grow.”
I messaged Taylor back and told her I was heading to work then hopping on the train to Budapest.
I hopped on the 5:00 train and pulled into Budapest around 6:00. For the hour ride there, I hand wrote the directions from Google Maps that I had screenshotted on my IPad when I was home on how to get to the program from the train station. I got off the train, found the metro station, got to one of the many town squares, and started having my doubts when I couldn’t find what street I needed to turn onto. I asked 5 people in Hungarian “Do you speak English?” with no luck. Thankfully, I had about 40 minutes of wiggle room before the event started.
I started walking passed some vendors just hoping I’d hear someone speak English and I could ask them for help. Luckily, I heard a girl, who looked to be about my age, speaking English. I asked her if she knew which way the university was, and she said she had no idea because she was a tourist.
My heart sank a little, but then she said, “This vendor knows English, maybe he can help you! Good luck!”
Thankfully, the vendor understood me and pointed me in the right direction. I found the address that was written on the Facebook event, only to find out that it wasn’t being held in that building…
The receptionist spoke English though and told me I just had to continue down the street for a block to find the student center that was hosting the event.
When I finally walked through the glass doors, I let my shoulders drop, my eyes close, and my lungs take a deep breath again. It took talking to about 7 people and 45 minutes instead of 21 to find that place, but I made it.
I had about ten minutes to spare, so I hopped on the university wifi to tell Taylor I made it and to see if she sent me the directions to get to her in case she wasn’t going to the event.
She sent me directions, screenshots included, which I copied down every detail into my little notepad I was carrying around like Dora the Explorer.
I thanked God for keeping me safe and for all the people who helped me get there, and I went in to find a seat. I found a few of Taylor’s co-workers, who I’d met through a conference in December, and I felt a sense of peace being near familiar faces.
As my heart rate began to finally decline, I felt a sense of victory that most city folk probably wouldn’t understand. A sense of pride a small-town girl feels the first time she makes her way through “the city life” on her own (and at night to boot!).
The program was ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. College students from 8 different countries who attend college in Budapest all spoke about their backgrounds, times they faced discrimination, and were incredibly vulnerable to do so.
It really was an extraordinary, unique experience. There definitely would not have been “a next time” if I didn’t go.
Afterward, it took me about an hour longer to get to Taylor than expected. I went to the wrong bus stop. I didn’t have a connection to her because her phone didn’t work. I called another volunteer in a panic. I prayed for 25 minutes straight while sitting on a bench waiting for my tram because everything slows down later at night. And I was EXHAUSTED when I found Taylor waiting at the station. But I made it.
I told Taylor, “I was so brave today. I don’t know if I’d ever do this again, but I did it. I was so worried, but I’m proud of myself.”, as we walked arm-in-arm down the middle of her quiet street, laughing as if it wasn’t 11:00pm.
Be courageous, friends, and remember this: Courage ➡️Vulnerability ➡️Growth