It has been more than 30 years since my parents took their four children on a journey that would change our lives. We left our home country, Honduras, and traveled to Boulder, Colorado in the winter. One of my first memories of that journey was looking through the airplane window down at the endless white of winter snow. I had never seen snow before. My dad, who had been awarded a scholarship to study at CU, was waiting for us at the airport gate with all our winter coats. He had gone six month ahead of us to begin his ESL (English as a Second Language) studies before commencing his master’s degree in economics. Those three years in Boulder, as I recall them, were pretty amazing. Why? What made them special? Here are some suggestions of what I am able to remember:
- We were invited into American homes. I remember many meals shared with American friends who, after over 30 years, are still friends. I remember my third grade classmate serving me a bagel and cream cheese for the very first time. My parents were recently talking about how the pastor of the church we attended (1st Presbyterian Church of Boulder), frequently had picnic/potlucks at his home, which we were always excited to attend. We felt like we belonged to a community away from the community we had left.
- We took time to explore our new environment: We were able to experience American Football, trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving meals, the Rocky Mountains, camping, s’mores. We went skiing for the first time. My older sister was even taken to a Michael Jackson concert! We went to the YMCA. We did Girl Scouts. In other words, we were given many safe opportunities to be immersed in the culture.
- We were shown practical kindness: My mom recalls a time when all four kids were sick with some virus. She was not able to leave her four kids under the age of 8 alone in the apartments to get her laundry done at the complex laundry mat. But, all of a sudden there was a knock at our door. The lady who had come to visit us took our laundry to her home and washed our clothes. Kindness cannot get more practical than that!
- We were invited to church. Most Hondurans are not at all secular and my family in particular has a pretty amazing faith story. It was such a joy to have a place to worship with other Followers of Jesus who were glad to have us there. Now, as an adult, I hear that Boulder is perhaps one of the most secular places in the US. This is the place were as a child, I met Jesus for the first time.
- We shared about us: Now, more than ever, colleges and universities have many international students from all over the world. I remember times when we dressed up in our national costumes, performed our national dances and sang our national songs. It gave us a sense of pride in our heritage.
- We learned about others: We were able to learn about other peoples, countries and ways of life, too. Since we lived in an apartment complex where many international student families lived, we were able to make friends with people from other nationalities. It was really neat to speak Spanish with Venezuelans and Salvadoreans. We smelled the garlic from the Asian students’ apartments and were invited to eat with Iranians. Our world was expanded!
And even though all this has nothing to do with the transition my husband, kids and I are going through, it is part of my history. I don’t want to forget it. It gives me hope that, even though in 30 years many things have changed, there are still kind people we will meet, a church God has prepared for us already, amazing things we will have the opportunity to do. Perhaps we can also become welcomers for other foreigners and continue to learn about others.
How have you showed hospitality to a foreigner? Have you lived in another country other than your country of birth? How have you been shown hospitality?