My sister lives in Kuwait. Before that, she spent three years in Taiwan. She vacations in places like Thailand and Bali. My college roommate and her husband live in Istanbul and have lived in Qatar and Spain, among other places. They spent Christmas in Jerusalem one year. Friends from church who live in Kuwait near my sister vacationed in Nepal.
I have lived in Pennsylvania and Maryland. I’ve vacationed in Canada, but the closest I’ve come to a foreign experience abroad was saying “Je ne parle pas français” to a French Canadian in Quebec City.
This is not what I expected when I was growing up. I wasn’t made for a small town. I had thoughts and dreams of traveling the globe. But life changes things, and here I am, back in the small town I grew up in. I’m thankful every day. When I lived in Maryland, I hated it. I hated not seeing three people I knew when I went to the grocery store. I hated that my son wouldn’t know neighborhood children because we were never home before dinnertime. I hated that there was no sense of community the way there was in my small town. And when I came home in 2005 after almost ten years away, it was the salve that my hurting heart desperately needed. It was still difficult, because the community that one has in high school is no longer what is needed when one is 27 with a seven-month-old baby. Finding my place again took some time. But slowly, slowly I found like-minded people, unpolished gems of delight.
But inevitably, the pull of the global came back to me. What was I doing with my life? Years slipped quickly, and my sister, brave and lovely and finding her own way, went abroad and created a community that was amazing to behold. I was conflicted more than ever before: my sister was doing what I had thought I might do when I was younger, but my own experiences taught me that, for me, long-term adventure without local community might not satisfy me. And now there was a child to think about—was I creating someone small-minded in this small-town, or would he be better served if we hopped on the next plane going abroad? What was I teaching him, and what dream of my own was I letting languish in my stagnation? And yet, and yet…
What I have come to find is that I want to live a global story. I want to create a community that reflects a global perspective. My small town feels restrictive and cramped because when that becomes my focus, my mind becomes smaller, and my soul yelps in pain. But travel without deep connection seems like empty space—I am not a tourist, and I do not want to experience the surface of a place. Watching my sister and my friends create depth within those foreign places, listening to their stories, following their adventures, makes me know that this is possible. And I want to ask more questions so that a shadow of their experience can be cast my way.
And as I began to look at my life, I discovered that a global story had already entered my life, softening and preparing my heart for further opportunities. In 2006, I joined and then eventually bought a company called Write from the Heart. We teach homeschooled children writing and literature online. It’s not cyber-school; it’s a wonderful community of families who return again and again to interact and write together. Some students are with us from 6th grade until they graduate. And they are from all over: Montana, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Georgia, New York, Vermont. They are also global. One student this year lives in Germany with her military family. Another set of brothers are South Korean and began with us when their father was going to school in the US and have continued with us since they have returned home. Another family lives in the US but the mother is from Chile; all the children are tri-lingual (English, Spanish, and Swiss), and they recently adopted several Chilean children and travel to Chile often. Other students go abroad during the school year for shorter periods of time. All of these experiences enrich their writing and creates a global perspective. I have the pleasure of being a part of this community, all while sitting in my small town in my PJs.
Is it the same as traveling myself? No, of course not. But with every taste of the global, my soul soars. And someday, I know that I will travel as well. Until then, I strive to impart the global into my son. Our world does not have to be constricted by this small town, even though that is where we are physically located. I want to remove American ethnocentricities from our language and our perspective. We are not the best, my life path is not the only way, and we should not have a white man’s burden for the rest of the “poor world.” Instead, we should strive to interact, to engage, to learn, to better ourselves by seeing the world around us as valuable and intensely interesting.
But the world is also a broken place. People are hurting, not because they live in a country poorer in value than our own, but because in all places, the poor and the unwanted are marginalized. I can be a voice crying for a salve for their hearts, just as I found mine here. The desire for safety, for love, for hope, for family…that knows no cultural barriers. And so, for this summer, I would like to be a refuge, a comfort, a salve. Not a better, not a savior. But a hand to hold, a voice from across the world saying, “You are valued, and you are important. You matter.”