Though I have not taken many adventures outside the State, I am not unfamiliar with foreigners. In fact, I tend to have some very close relationships with those from other cultures and countries. I have felt like family among my Germans, Russians, and Japanese friends. Many of them say “Lisa, you are not a true American.” At first, I struggled to understand what they meant. It almost sounded derogatory. They didn’t mean it in an unkind way. They were just trying to differentiate between my actions and those of most Americans they have interacted with.
My first real interaction with a foreigner was in 1988. A German exchange student entered our high school and he quickly became close friends with my friend group. In fact after a few months, he asked if another friend of mine and I wanted to come and meet his family in Germany. My parents were exceptionally strict with me and I never imagined them saying I could make the trip but they agreed to it. At 16 I flew to Germany in February of 1989. My first experience visiting a foreign land. I knew no German. I made great attempts to communicate but failed. Apparently, my German pronunciation of words was like a live comedy show. In fact, there were times my friend’s mother ended up in tears laughing over my attempts to ask questions. She spoke no English at all. She smiled, laughed, and hugged me a lot. My most vivid memories of Germany are…
- Going to a concentration camp. I will never forget. No one talked. Many visited. Silence and Solitude. Sad. That’s all.
- Riding in a BMW on the Autobahn. Felt like we were going 300mph. Wasn’t sure if I was going to ever see my parents again. A bit terrified.
- Dancing in disco like places and drinking coffee in quaint coffee shops. Germany was hooked up! America wouldn’t see coffee shops until many years later. Found out quickly we are behind the times.
- Lastly, traveling from West Berlin to East Berlin. People with machine guns asking for our American currency. I stood on Checkpoint Charlie right before it was gone and I managed to chisel pieces of the Berlin Wall off with a nail and hammer. One with red and another with blue graffiti. It took forever to get the pieces to come off and the temps in Germany at that time were less than 20 degrees but it was worth it!
Following my adventure in Germany, I always had a heart for the country and the people. After we had children, we made the decision to host German college students studying in New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday week. Our kids loved it and I felt a small connection with every German who entered our home. It was a sweet time.
In the past two years I added two “foreign” women to my Real Estate team. Both are precious to me. Both, I have enormous respect and admiration for. The first, a Palestinian woman. Her determination and incredible love for her family and unshakable faith is inspiring to say the least. I learned a lot about her culture and world views in the short time we had together and she truly feels like family to me. She is not longer with me. She later accepted a full-time job outside of real estate in the banking industry. The second, a Russian woman who came to the United States in the late 80’s. She has been with me about eight months now and her dedication and determination in a career that is extremely challenging is off the charts! Granted she has been in the States for a while but she identifies and spends most of her time in Russian circles. I also feel like family among her and her relatives/community.
Finally, my sweet Japanese friend. I met Mariko through her daughter. Our oldest son would catch a ride to high school musical practices with her. Mariko has a servant heart. Anyone who knows her will tell you this: she is constant. Her love is unconditional. Her countenance is beautiful and her friendship is a gift.
Mariko came to this country from Japan in 1989. Missionaries in Japan were taking tracts house to house. Mariko had always wanted to learn English and this group gave her the opportunity she has longed for. Their teaching source, the Bible. As Mariko studied the Word of God, she decided to make the decision to accept Christ into her own life. Later, she married an American doctor and relocated to the States. American culture was so different. No one really bothered with her much. Americans tend to make foreigners feel even more like foreigners. It is sad but true. I have seen and heard it time and time again: “coming to the States is hard.”
In the photo, you see my sweet friend. She is an outstanding cook! She had made me authentic Korean barbecue and it was delicious. As she cooked we talked and laughed. A lot! She has deep thoughts and so do I. Our friendship is way below the surface. Refreshing always. Every time we meet, I take her a token of appreciation for the time she has taken to make me a meal or show me love in some way. She asked me if I was taught to do this as a child. I wasn’t taught; I just feel it is the right thing to do. A small thank you. She has said that few people do that in America. She doesn’t ever get upset about it, it’s just a bit of a “foreign” concept here. She noted when she first came to America to college that no one would eat lunch with her. Do we even understand the life of a foreigner here in the United States? I believe the answer is a resounding “NO!”
I have changed for the better by having these amazing humans in my circle of life. They are a breath of fresh air. Though they are all from a far off land, they are not at all foreigners to me. They are like my family.
Thoughts for today…
- “Un-American” friendships take on a whole new and refreshing twist. Going outside the “American box” is eye opening.
- Adventure to a foreign land can generally be in your back yard if you choose it.
- Choose JOY everyday!