Doing the Hokie Pokie: What I Learned at the Hungarian Elementary School about Life

I’m not sure why I keep getting sucked up into these time warps. As each day passes, I am one day older… and one day further from my last blog post. [If you have a solution to keep me on top of this, let me know!]

It’s not like so many cool things haven’t happened, or that my days aren’t filled with “ahas” about life and business. Somehow, I just get swept up into the swirl. “Calgon Moments”, perhaps (if you’re too young for this reference, just skip it.) But every once in a while there are those days that are so out of character they kind of snap you awake. That’s one of the reasons why I love to travel. There are so many of those occasions.

Saturday was one of those days. I got to experience being a parent (the good part!). Will and I have “adopted” the most amazing boy. His name is Dominic and he lives with his parents, Wayne and Aniko, in our building. It really is the ideal situation. They support him, make sure he brushes his teeth and does his homework, while we get to hang out and be the cool parents. Over the holidays we had a Christmas classic movie night 6 days in a row with films like Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version, of course), and The Polar Express. We didn’t watch It’s a Wonderful Life, which was a huge missing for me; but I guess you don’t really need to watch that if your life IS wonderful. While different friends popped in different nights, Dominic showed up every day except Christmas Day (either he needed a break, or his parents wanted him back.)

We adore this kid. He’s like a little Buddha. So when Aniko invited us to his school’s international day to talk about where we are from, we jumped at the opportunity. I mean, come on, what could be cooler than going to a Hungarian elementary school and talking about America?!

I need to be honest; waking up at the crack of dawn was not the most thrilling part. I normally don’t roll out of bed until 10-11 am. (Before you jump to conclusions, I work the swing shift so I go to sleep in the middle of the night). We met Aniko and Wayne around 9 am and headed to the school, a cool old building with beautiful carvings on the façade, a few blocks away from home. Somehow we got passed security and we were greeted in the lobby; then we went into the main assembly hall with hundreds of kids. While it would have been cool to speak to hundreds of children, it wasn’t what I was expecting – but we were then informed that the students could choose the rooms they wanted: Argentina, India, the United Kingdom, combo rooms, etc. Wayne is a mix of Australian and Irish. He was born in Australia, but his parents moved to Ireland when he was a baby. He moved back to Australia when he was 20 and that is where he met Aniko. Our friend Richard was there from the UK, and then there was me. Will opted to let me represent the USA. I’m not sure if I’m the best representation, but I do have one of those traits that most expect from Americans: I’m loud (I like to refer to it as “expressed”).

We had two gigs; one with the older kids, around age 10, and one with the younger kids, around age 6. Melinda who teaches English was our handler. Given that we’re practically rock stars, a handler makes sense, right?

I wasn’t sure what to expect and neither did Wayne and Aniko. So I prepared to talk to the kids about RUM. No, not the liquor – they’re kids, for goodness sake – R for the relationship between Hungary and the US (a Hungarian officer fought for the continental army during the Revolutionary War and trained the Calvary Army), U for Utah (where I’m from, and that the name comes from the Ute Tribe which means people of the mountains (so cool because I have always loved the mountains)), and, subsequently, M for mountains.

There wasn’t a presentation; it was just an opportunity for the kids to ask questions and to engage. Most of the questions were pretty straight forward: “Where do you come from?” “What are you doing in Hungary?” “Why do you live in Budapest?” But I must admit a few of them caught me off guard.

“Do you have a wife?” Hmmm… how exactly do I explain my relationship with Will to a 7 year old? I figured that a straightforward answer with not a lot of details was the best policy, particularly since the school principal showed up just before this question with impeccable timing. So I said that I live with Will (who was standing right beside me) and our two dogs. Melinda translated and he replied,

Oh, I wanted to make sure you weren’t alone.

Kids are so amazing. Being around them really makes you present to what matters and how to navigate this journey through life.

Now, while that question was a little touchy, the next one came out of left field. “Do you have an American-style kitchen?” Of all the questions a child could ask, I would predict this one last. While unexpected, it was an easy one. But the thing that struck me the most about the question was how America shapes the world. I have always known that most of the world watches what America does, but seeing and hearing that in action is a whole other thing. A 10 year old wanting to know if we have an American style kitchen really says it all.

With big blessings comes big responsibility. And if you ever question what a blessing it is to be an American, just travel the world and you’ll be clear. It’s not about having more or being better, it’s about mindset. For the most part, we grow up in a world where anything is possible. You can come from a humble beginning but you could grow up to be the president. That truly is a blessing.

With big blessings comes big responsibility. And if you ever question what a blessing it is to be an American, just travel the world and you’ll be clear. It’s not about having more or being better, it’s about mindset. For the most part, we grow up in a world where anything is possible. You can come from a humble beginning but you could grow up to be the president. That truly is a blessing.

By | 2016-10-13T16:45:37+00:00 January 13th, 2015|Aha Moment, Budapest, Destination Aha!, Happiness, Holidays, Life, Life Purpose, Making a Difference, Meaning of Life, Travel|Comments Off on Doing the Hokie Pokie: What I Learned at the Hungarian Elementary School about Life

About the Author:

For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. As the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., lauded by the likes of PR Week and Good Morning America, he sparks "aha" conversations that lead to personal and business success. His PR firm is known for landing clients on Dr. Phil, Oprah, Anderson Cooper, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, and other top media outlets. Wasabi Publicity lives to launch conversations that make a difference and change the world.