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It takes a CHILD….to raise a village

Many of us are familiar with the traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”.  We acknowledge that it cannot be done alone or in isolation, it takes many to provide an open and inclusive, well rounded and well grounded, balanced approach to raising them UP.

Well, for the past five months, that expression has been turned on its head and I have experienced a beautiful and soul solidifying growth spurt of my own, brought on by three thoughtful, spirit filled, heart centered and love focused young women.

For five months, two families have each hosted a wonderful young German student, both of whom arrived as friends, fresh faced and full of possibility, ready to take on everything that their Canadian experience had to offer. And, waiting for them here, a young Canadian host sister who received them with open arms and an open heart.

International students come to Canada for many reasons, not the least of which is to ‘learn’; from their new school, their host parents, their house siblings, a different culture, another way of doing and living.  I know that both of these young women have carried home memories and learning experiences they could not even imagine when they arrived. What they may not know is that they left behind, so many more lessons, and I am forever grateful for what they taught me during their stay; I learned to ‘expand’.

I expanded my thinking. These girls introduced a fresh youthful perspective to everything – to my firmly established opinions, to my ‘set in my way’ way of doing things, to my approach to situations, to my feelings of ‘knowing’ and to my understanding of the world.  I watched different movies, heard new music and met new artists.  They shone a light on what matters to youth, on their current reality, one much different than my own, and they asked important and thoughtful questions, without judgement and unjaded, while remaining open to different or altered answers.  They appreciated my wisdom and they offered theirs in return.

I expanded my home, which has never been big but has never felt small.  Sharing your space invites compromise and cooperation, giving more than you take, figuring out what works for others.  Our home was bursting with news, with excitement, with energy and with teenagers again, all from different families, and some from different countries.

I expanded my celebrations.  With someone new and limited time, ordinary becomes extraordinary. We celebrated every occasion, no matter how small.  We shared more tables, gave more parties, ate more cake, invited more friends, and ‘showed up’ whenever we could. We didn’t wait for the right time, because we knew we had limited time, so we seized every opportunity to go to the game, to dance to the music, to be at the beach, to ride in the boat, to travel the Island, to visit new places, to enjoy the sunshine, to do new things, to write new stories.

I expanded my understanding of my own language. Our students arrived speaking English but there were many new expressions, weird spellings, words that meant more than one thing, words that didn’t make sense to them, and much used phrases whose origin I had long forgotten.  I learned to appreciate what it is to try to think and laugh in a new language, and to have to learn and study in that same language.

I expanded my heart, which I thought was already on the large side – we have helped raise a house full of young people, opened our doors and shared our table for many years, so we know what it is to widen the circle.  What I was not prepared for was the way they moved in and settled into my heart, taking up such a large part of it and bringing back those feelings of pride, love, concern, and sheer joy that come when your heart expands to include another.

So to Lina, and Anna, and Maddy, THANK YOU, for spending some time with us, for viewing the world through a less filtered lens, for remaining unstuck and open to new possibility, and for expanding our horizons.  Your light will continue to shine on in the imprint you make on others and I for one will be forever grateful, for reminding me that while we think our children come here to learn, they actually come here to teach.

Lina in wetsuit

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