A talk with a good friend reminded me how very fortunate we are to be a Host Family to a foreign exchange student. It’s turned out to be so many lessons about life, love, understanding and compassion …lessons I will hold onto forever.
Without going into details about my conversation with my friend, I want to share how I’m reminded of these lessons every day. I’m blessed to have added another person into our family and our lives… someone who is dependent on us for daily needs for just a small fraction of her life. It makes me feel important. In many ways, I feel like we are her teachers.
I also believe that having an exchange student has made me more understanding. I find that I’m looking at things differently. I don’t know if it’s because I have someone else in the house who is looking at things differently too… and often says so… or if it’s because they are seeing it from a different perspective. I think some of us in the family have become more patient in dealing with others by listening more carefully to things Lara has to say or explain to us. We aren’t as quick to judge others and come to conclusions.
I also think I’ve become more compassionate. Maybe that was my biggest lesson from the talk with my friend. I look at everyone’s personal situation differently and with a more open mind. I look at their situation, how it is from both sides of the fence and how I might make a difference in their life. And I can apply it to what my kids are doing… and what Lara is doing. For example… my own daughter is nervous about Softball tryouts, a sport she has been involved in since she was 8. There are not as many positions open on the team and I’m trying to be more sympathetic to her fears. Our son is another example. He is attending Real Estate School and trying to understand something I take for granted. I’m putting myself in his shoes at that age and wondering if I would have a tough time understanding Real Estate before ever buying a home. Yet another example is Lara going out for Track and unsure of what is involved in an after school sports. I seem to be giving more encouraging words to all of the kids… and even to my friends….and trying to look at both sides of a situation. Trust me… I didn’t always do that. I used to jump to conclusions and judgments quickly. And I didn’t realize all of this until a talk with a friend. Hmmm….
I find myself using our experience of adding a family member to our house as an example of how to treat people. And when I mean we “added a family member”… I mean that. We don’t have a house guest staying here passing the time or just spending time on a vacation. Lara is a TRUE member of the family who participates in the family activities. When we have plans to do something as a family, Lara doesn’t say she will join us IF she’s not busy. She just knows she’ll be with us and doesn’t question it.
From abiding by the rules and sharing chores of the house to personal stories and experiences… we are truly a family that supports and depends on each other. I see that every day between me and Lara when she’s texting me from school about things. And I see it with the rest of the family. The other day, Lara was texting me asking questions about something. I tried to text back and forth but was having some challenges so I texted Brittany and said, “Can you help your sister with something?” I assumed Brittany and Lara were at lunch together. Brittany was actually taking a test in the library but she texted me back to say she would help Lara. Sometimes they are sisters, sometimes they are friends. But no matter what….they are family.
Sometimes…when I see broken homes and children being bounced from house to house… I wish others could take the life lessons we’ve learned from opening our home to an exchange student…. and apply them to their family. I truly believe it builds a positive foundation from which to grow stronger family bonds and love for others.
We have a few months left until Lara goes back to Germany but I’m thankful to reflect on this experience now and how it has taught us all life lessons. I’m not sure if other family members have come to this realization just yet… but I know they will one day. And I firmly believe it will make us all better people within our community.