It's Who You Know

16954814325fee6e63eo6ph[1].jpgI observed some interesting good-byes at the Managua airport at the conclusion of my most recent visit. While I awaited the announcement of my flight, I watched from a mezzanine above the main floor security entrance. Here is where families say their final farewells before someone boards a plane for destinations far away. It’s a sometimes-touching sight as people face travel separations which, however exciting or opportunistic they may be, are nonetheless poignant reminders of our importance to one another.

On this particular occasion, I observed a group of U.S. college-aged men and women saying their good-byes to what appeared to be their Nicaraguan hosts, newfound friends and surrogate families. I watched young men awkwardly and self-consciously hug their host moms, embrace their temporary dads and knuckle up with their Nicaraguan peers. The emotions and tears in parting made for a sweet sight and one that dampened my own eyes for what it clearly represents.

When we come to know one another- and I am speaking particularly from an International perspective here- the boundaries go away and the seeds of global hope are sewn again. For if these young men and women are able to retain even a fraction of the feeling and memories from their visits to Central America, their connections with and personal “stake” in the future of their hosts has fundamentally changed how they see the world. By living with and becoming part of their host families, these young travelers have become emotionally invested in ways that reading books or listening to news reports could never achieve. Now, the Nicaraguans are real, and what happens to them happens to their former guests, as well. In the future, questions about U.S. government foreign policy, or actions that take place in-country, or natural disasters or achievements all will have a more direct and meaningful importance to these young people, because they have “family” in the place called Nicaragua.

As the group gradually began migrating through the security line, I watched one reluctant student tearfully mouth the words, “I’m coming back” to her equally-tearful host mom. And I thought to myself that there’s a lot to be hopeful about these days….

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