Editor’s Desk

Column: Bridging gaps big and small

July 3, 2014 

The monument to Imre Nagy features the former Hungarian leader on a bridge. The monument sits in the shadow of Hungary's parliament building, seen here in the background on the right.

JOHNNY WHITFIELD — jwhitfield@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

If you’re not familiar with the Hungarian capital of Budapest, the city of 2 million sits astride the Danube River. Locals refer to the river as the Duna. There are eight bridges that span the river and connect two much older cities: Buda and Pest. Each bridge is a history lesson in itself, most notably, the Chain Bridge, which was destroyed during fighting in World War II.

Elsewhere in the city, you can find the monument pictured with this column. The memorial honors the work of Imre Nagy, who is standing on a bridge across a small pool of water. Nagy was a communist leader who later renounced that form of government and found himself at odds with the Soviet powers that essentially ruled Hungary after World War II. He was a leader in the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that attempted to throw off the shackles of Soviet leadership and bridge the gap between Soviet leadership and true Hungarian self-determination. He was arrested secretly, tried secretly and executed secretly for his efforts.

Hungarians couldn’t recognize Nagy until after the fall of Soviet communism in 1989.

The Duna is a wide, powerful, swift river where it runs through Budapest. The divide between communism and self-rule was an even larger gulf to cross.

But not everything about Hungary is so divided. On Thursday night, I enjoyed a dinner with Lukacz (pronounced Lucas) Lewkot. His wife Kristi is one of my church’s Hungarian partners in operating a vacation Bible school and English camp in Budapest every summer.

Lukacz works in sales for a large computer company. His territory covers Poland. As we ate, we discussed his work and how the Internet has changed modern-day computing and communication. I envy Lukacz in many ways. He told me when he comes home each night, he tucks away all the technology he has at his fingertips. He tries to make his teenagers do much the same, though it is a struggle (If you’re the parent of a teenager, raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to get your children to put down their smart phone.)

And if you work for a living, ask yourself how well you do at unplugging each night. It’s a hard thing to do.

Lukacz said he’d prefer to spend his time at home actively involved in his children’s lives or reading a book.

As he talked about his nightly retreat from technology, I found myself agreeing with everything he said. Then I found myself wondering how in the world I could do something like that? I find it terribly difficult to stay off the computer or the cell phone and just check in with my family.

My visit with Lukacz made me realize the gap between parenting in the U.S. and parenting in a place like Hungary isn’t all that wide. Lukacz has managed to do what many Americans would love to do. He doesn’t downplay the importance of computer technology in today’s world, but he has a great perspective about the proper role of technology in the family.

That’s one bridge I’m still trying to cross. And many Americans, including me, would probably do well to follow Lukacz’s example.

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