Growing up, I never saw artistic abilities as a relational gift. I have always been a rather detail-oriented person, and this translated into my art as well. This was evidenced in the fact that I gravitated toward drawing people—loving the detail and intricacy required to catch the resemblance of the human face on paper. Simply doodling or sketching did not come easy for me. My art took time and concentration and only really turned out well if I took that time and concentration to complete it.
That being said, I spent a lot of time throughout the years looking at others’ gifts and wishing my talents were a bit more flexible, a bit more social. I wished for the ability to play sports, or tell jokes, or play music. I wished for an outgoing personality that would instantly pull people to me. Needless to say, those qualities aren’t me. I simply do not possess the magnetism and talents that quickly make people like me and gravitate toward me. In no way does that mean my talents and personality don’t have value, I just couldn’t see it yet at that point in my life.
Here in Hungary, I have learned that detail-oriented artistic talent can actually be a wonderful way to connect with people.
On weekdays, a branch of the Hungarian Reformed Church runs an after-school program for kids in the 8th district of Budapest. The 8th district has historically been considered one of the most run-down and poorest districts of the city. After WWII, many of the damaged buildings were torn down and never replaced. On the ones that still stand, the battle scars are usually evident. There is also a significant amount of Roma families who live in this area, giving the district a distinct and intricate culture. Overall, the kids that come to the program are often from dysfunctional backgrounds and chaotic home environments.
The first week I went to work with these kids, I was nervous. Sometimes it takes kids a while to accept you—especially when you don’t speak their language. During the after-school program, children first have the opportunity to work with tutors, and then there are various stations set up where they can earn points to get much-coveted computer time. Since coming here over a month ago, I have begun attending the after school program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Along with Kearstin, another American, I run one of the stations, attempting to incorporate some English into the weekly activities.
Initially, the kids gave me a bit of distance, looking at me as an outsider and asking me questions in Hungarian—expecting an answer no matter how many times I told them I didn’t speak it. One day, Kearstin, as she was preparing to teach the kids tongue twisters, doodled some seashells on a piece of paper. The kids were more interested in her drawings than in the tongue twisters. They came to her, begging her to draw Superman. They grabbed her phone, looking up pictures for her to sketch, but she declined, saying she was no good at drawing. Eventually they turned to me, shoving the phone in my face and pointing at pictures of Superman.
So I drew Superman. Line for line, I copied the picture onto the page. In a few minutes I had gathered quite the little crowd. The kids stood around me, looking at my work. One little boy in the crowd really struck me. He simply sat quietly by me, staring at every line I drew, fixated on my pencil.
That ended up being our activity for the night. The kids had to look up a picture and draw it. Some of them loved that, some of them didn’t.
Ever since that day, I have garnered the reputation of being able to draw. The kids come up to me each time I am there. A few bring pictures they have printed that they want me to draw or they want to try drawing. A few take my phone to find more pictures of Superman for me to recreate. The little boy who watched my every move shows me things to make and colors them immediately after I finish. Occasionally, I can get him to try his own, but he gets easily frustrated and gives up if it doesn’t look how he wants it to.
Watching these kids respond to my talent begins to give me a glimpse of who they are. I wonder about the little boy that watches me. What is he like in school? What is his home life like? Would he be a good artist if he had a bit more encouragement? Would he pay attention that intently to someone sharing Jesus with him? The group of boys he hangs out with is rowdy and spends many days at the program moving from station to station without really investing their attention in anything. But this boy, he seems to really love art, ditching his friends to color. I wonder what that will mean in his life.
Though I don’t speak the same language as these kids, though they can’t tell me their backgrounds, though they still sometimes misbehave or say vulgar things to me, I earned their respect that day. Using an obscure talent God gave me, I was able to connect with them without any words. In the middle of a chaotic environment, God used a very focused and calm talent as a relational tool.
How can God use your obscure talents to reach people?
By Clarissa Hunter, OMS Hungary Intern