Author: Bach, Gene

The risk is small, the rewards are great

Tomorrow, I’m going to a wedding. No, it’s not my wedding…I already did that once…it’s the wedding of one of our surrogate daughters. Sarah lived with us for approximately three years before moving out on her own. She was an interesting kid at times, but then I suppose the same could be said for us all, at one point or another. Some of her thought processes left me wondering if there had ever been any active brain cells floating around in her grey matter. Over the course of time, with a LOT of prodding by my wife, Sarah slowly turned her life around and has finally turned into a pretty good kid. Kudos to my wife for that one. Tomorrow she starts a brand new chapter of her life, and I wish her well.

We have, like many other folks I would say, had several “additions” to our family through the years. My wife, bless her soul, sees wayward souls in much the same way as a child sees a puppy in the pound. She firmly believes that deep within everyone is a really good person trying hard to succeed, and she has decided to take on the task of helping to bring that person out into the open in as many cases as possible. I cannot believe the patience she shows at times. I am not long in that particular department and I truly admire that part of her personality. I can only hope that she didn’t marry me as a “project”.

In each of the last three years we have hosted exchange students, and my wife has taken each of those girls under her wing while they were here. I will have to say that I did much the same thing regarding them, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree. When each of the girls arrived here from their home countries we took them into our home as a full-fledged member of the family.

I found it interesting that in all three cases they came from a broken, or semi-broken home. It seems as though we Americans do not have the market on divorce cornered as of yet. At first, the girls didn’t really know what to expect. I’m sure it’s hard to travel several thousand miles and not know for sure what kind of a home you are going to wind up in. But they all responded very well to the treatment they received in our home. I do believe that they found comfort in the stability they found within the arms of our family.

Our first girl, Joanna, was from Poland. She was stunningly beautiful, and quite insecure at first. Of the three girls we have hosted Joanna was the one who was the most devastated by culture shock. Her idea of California was miles of sand along the ocean somewhere in the vicinity of San Diego. Yreka, which as a population of 7,000 and sits in the mountains, was not quite what she had envisioned. Eventually, however, she came out of her shell (with the help of surrogate Sarah) and became part of the family.

The second girl, Zeline, was from Switzerland. She was extremely outgoing and had an attitude of, “I am going to have fun and enjoy my time here in America!” Now, that’s not to say she wasn’t a good student at all: she was. She simply had a wonderful outlook on life. Zeline was a perfect fit for us and was truly a part of our family from day one. When the end of the school year came, and graduation approached, my wife asked what I thought we should get her as a present. I said I thought we should buy her a one way ticket back from Switzerland. When she got on the plane to leave there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Last year we hosted Karina from Ukraine. She was all of five feet four inches tall and had to be one of the most animated people I have ever been around. There was no “mellow” when it came to Karina. She could go from zero to one hundred in a conversation in a split second. By the time you were done talking to her you were exhausted. Of the three girls Karina seemed to be the one who most responded to the stability and loving atmosphere here. Her home life was less than desirable and she longed for kind words and a loving approach: both of which were in abundance. At the end of the school year she did not want to go home. It was hard to let her go.

I have lived the last 28 years with a wife, three daughters, female strays and more recently female exchange students. I have been forced to alter my way of doing things and adjust my attitude and actions to meet the needs of those around me. It has been both trying and beneficial. I have watched each of my daughters grow into well rounded young ladies. Tomorrow I will watch an “adopted” daughter walk down the isle of matrimony. I have been a part of the lives of wonderful young ladies from other countries. Seeing the fruits of your labors is indeed rewarding.

I offer this to you from what I have learned: pay attention to those around you; love them for who they are, not who you want them to be; search for the good qualities in those whom you have close contact with; do everything you can to build a firm, love-based relational foundation and keep it fed and watered; learn to listen and comprehend, even when it’s hard to understand; be slow to anger, and quick to forgive; and most importantly, always take the time to tell your family, whoever they may be, that you love them.

The risk is small, the rewards are great.
Posted:  10/13/2009

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