When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult I gave up childish ways.
(1 Cor. 13:11)
When I was a child my mother was friends with a woman her age and that woman’s mother. I no longer remember their names, but I do remember spending time at their home. They fed me great treats while they visited. I was particularly impressed that they let their over-sized Cocker Spaniel drink out of the toilet bowl.
My mother’s friend owned a little gift shop near our house. I sometimes wandered in there to admire the horse figurines. I learned eventually that my mother’s friend and her family fled the early 1900’s Armenian Genocide and settled to Cleveland. They never talked about life back there. Mostly I remember their treats, dog and gift shop.
My father was a civil engineer who frequently traveled internationally for various projects. When he was in town he sometimes brought international guests home with him for a home-cooked meal.
When I was ten, I signed up for President Eisenhower’s People-to-People Pen Pal Program. I was assigned a girl my age named Maureen who lived in Melbourne, Australia. We wrote back and forth regularly until we both finished college and got busy with marriages and children.
One year my Aunt Esther gave me a set of four-inch dolls, each dressed in a custom typical of the country it represented. My parents hung these on a ribbon on one wall of my room where I saw them as I was falling asleep or waking up.
I suppose the combination of these things is what piqued my curiosity about all things international. I have long had a fascination with those who look, speak, dress, eat, and act differently than my German-English relatives. I have been fortunate to travel in over a dozen countries. I thoroughly enjoyed each one. Over the years I’ve also had the privilege of hosting and hiring international guests from even more countries.
I live in the most diverse city in the United States where people originating from every part of the globe surround me. With all this as part of my personal story, it grieves me greatly when people are excluded – or worse – in danger because they appear different than what some consider “normal.”
There isn’t much I can do to reduce the fear and anxiety some experience when they encounter someone who is “different.” What I can do is write about some of the amazing people I’ve met along the way who are not just like me. In doing so, I hope we can overcome our stranger-danger anxieties and make the effort to find common ground as members of the human family.
Yes, there are some very evil and dangerous people in the world. Every sub-group of Homo-Sapiens has a few. Most people want the same things – a safe place to live, a way to support themselves and their loved ones, and the chance to see their children grow up healthy and secure.
With that in mind, the next few blogs will be about some of the many terrific people I’ve gotten to know who represent the broad spectrum of humanity.