Isn't it lucky for us when someone drops into our life unplanned and in a few short days makes an impact. Color me lucky...again. This time in the form of a 16 year old girl from China that stayed with me for 2 weeks while her host family went to Ireland. I specifically chose not to host students this year but was happy to honor my friend's request especially since she had spoken so highly of this student.
No matter how much I'd been told about this girl I was not prepared for the positive impression she made on me and my family. Having lived with American students for the last several years this was an entirely different experience. I'm not sure if that speaks to a cultural difference or personality differences. Probably a bit of both.
Through lengthy conversations I learned much about her country, it's history and culture. She spoke with such reverence about her family they came alive to me. Surprising for a teenager, she actually asked me questions and was interested in the answers.
Of course, not every adolescent has the opportunity or emotional makeup to travel half way around the world and live with strangers for an entire school year 3 years running, but given this opportunity she has made the most of her experience in the US. Either born with or instilled by her family, this young woman has an extraordinary curiosity about nearly everything. That curiosity makes her adept at many things: video games, photography and robotics being her greater loves but she combines this with being a very good student.
When her homework was finished you could find her cruising the neighborhood with her gigantic camera taking photos. I found her loitering at the end of our block in a small commercial area one day and asked how her picture taking was going as she didn't seem to be actually photographing anything. Her answer: "My father says, most of photography is observation." Her father is also a photographer and appears to have taught her well. She takes beautiful photos and does so with a commitment that requires her to lug a giant, heavy backpack filled with photographic equipment with her wherever she goes.
One evening she showed me her latest creation, missing the keyboard she has at her regular residence, she made a tiny robotic keyboard and played a few tunes for me. And when we had a family party she mesmerized my 3 nieces by guiding them through the construction of another small robot.
Her attitude toward new things whether it was meat loaf, a walk or one of our "Big Fat Family Parties", was priceless. Her response would be, "I've never tried that, but I'd like to" or an enthusiastic "YES!".
At times we have feelings of despair when it comes to the younger generations but this young woman restores confidence in our youth. Her cheerful, courteous, respectful and curious nature was a huge reminder to me to stay open, respect one another, put on a smile even when you may not feel like it and keep a sense of humor as you go out into the world and take the accompanying risks.
Most of all she inspired me to say "Yes" to life....it's people and fantastic array of experiences.
Thank you TJ.