Zoli was laughing pretty hard, and I saw genuine amusement flash in his eyes. I forget now what I said, but it doesn’t matter. His wife, sitting on a bucket in the corner, was holding a pricing gun as though it was a revolver. She had mostly been quiet, but for the first time, I heard her chuckle at my now forgotten comment.
Zoli’s shop, built into a garage in the bottom of a communist style block apartment in Budapest’s 11th district, was cramped. He stood behind his counter. I leaned on a shelf of car parts. His wife had just come from pricing some new parts in the back of the store and found a place to sit down on an upturned five-gallon bucket. The store was closed, but our conversation hadn’t ended.
Zoli is a middle-aged Hungarian with a quick wit and an uncanny knack of being able to quickly find what you need in what seems to be a disaster zone of random car parts. His wife likes to give him a hard time. I hadn’t known him all that long.
So how did we come to be laughing in his garage? Well, we both love the same thing.
As a kid, when we lived in Hungary in 1993, I became passionate about the little, mostly terrible, Soviet-era cars that dominated the streets. None captivated me more than the little old Lada 2010, or Zsiguli, as they are nicknamed. They were different and unique compared to what I had known in the USA. As an adult returning to Hungary, I decided that I wanted to own one for myself. Thankfully, a good friend of ours had a neighbor with his consigned to a garage due to age. Three hundred dollars lighter, I was the owner of the car I loved as a kid.
I had a Zsiguli in need of restoration. Zoli owns a car parts store that sells Russian car parts.
It’s not just a business to Zoli. He really loves these cars. It seems a lot of people do. Honestly, whenever I drive my Zsiguli, it’s like being in a one-car parade. Old men point it out to their wives or grandkids. People routinely ask if it’s for sale. Nice Ladas are rare these days, and they’ve crossed into ‘retro’ status in the old Warsaw-Pact countries.
If you think this is a blog post about a car and the guy that sells me my parts, you’re wrong.
This is a story, rather, about how passions bring us together.
There is a lot of talk about being divided these days. My Facebook feed is full of stories fueled by anger and rage. Attempts to create conversations, when started from a place of emphasizing our differences, have simply led to fights. Everyone is yelling. No one is listening.
Conversations and relationships begin when we can come to a place where we respect one another. When we start with a shared interest, passion, or belief, relationships form—though we may not agree on everything, we have found a point of connection. In this way, relationships are the bridge for listening and understanding. While Zoli and I have little in common, our relationship came together through a mutual passion for old cars and a belief that they should be preserved.
A $300 car gave birth to a relationship. I wouldn’t call it a friendship yet, but I hope someday soon we can have a productive conversation about things of more eternal value.
So how about you? What are your passions? What can God use in you to build a relationship or start a conversation to make a lasting impact?