After my sabbatical this summer, our family decided to be more intentional about opening up our home to neighbors and strangers. An opportunity presented itself almost immediately; we were invited to host a high school student from Taiwan for a two-week exchange program.
By the time we picked up Allen at the airport on a Sunday afternoon, he had already been traveling for over 12 hours. He was friendly but understandably quiet and tired. Over the next two weeks, it was fun to see Allen become more and more a part of our family. Some significant things we shared:
- Giving Gifts – I had forgotten the importance of gift-giving in many other cultures. The first day, Allen presented each of our family members with a small gift. He gave us other gifts throughout his stay. After he left to go home, we discovered notes he’d written for us (in Chinese and English) as well. The gifts he gave and the ones we gave in return sealed our friendship.
- Sharing Stories – Allen was keenly interested in our lives as Americans, but I noticed he also enjoyed sharing about his own life and experiences. He was eager to tell us about his school and his family. When we wondered out loud about making a Moon Cake to celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival, Allen found a recipe for Moon Cakes like his mother’s. The stories we shared opened doors into each others lives.
- Being Human – After a high school volleyball game, I drove Allen and my son, Isaac, over some roller-coaster country hills. Both of them laughed and smiled as we crested one hill and then another. In that moment, there was no difference between Taiwanese and American; the laughter was the same for both boys.
I am thankful God gave us an opportunity to share two weeks with Allen. It was a meaningful time for our whole family.