Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open Hearts

Cramer Family in 1978
We were young, and according to some people, a little foolish. Our friends counseled us against it, explaining “No one with three young children and a lick of sense opens their home to complete strangers.” We certainly had three young children, we did invite two men from other cultures to live with us, and it was one of the smartest decisions we ever made. I’d say the naysayers were wrong.

The headline in our local paper read, “Baton Rougeans Open Homes to International Students,” which made it sound more like a tour of homes than a residential learning adventure. It had been marketed as an immersion program for international students who wanted to learn English in order to study in the US. It proved to be a two-way learning experience, and we learned more than our students ever did.

They were a delightful addition to the family, but it was never quite clear whether they were auxiliary parents for our young children or simply their older siblings. On one hand, they provided help in caring for the children. On the other, they called us Mom and Dad (our closeness in age not-withstanding.)

Every afternoon, they led the kids outside so I could fix the evening meal in peace. Under their tutelage they began one after dinner practice that persists to this day. At the end of the meal, they taught the children to clear off the dishes while I sipped an evening cup of coffee and waited to be served dessert. They helped with homework, went to every flag football game, captured and shared the best pictures we have of those years, survived a major living room renovation project and felt enough at home to entertain their friends.

In time, they moved out of our home into homes of their own. They married and had children. One of them stayed in the states. The other moved back to his homeland. Social media keeps us in touch and feeling like we have an ongoing stake in each other’s lives. We, who never seem to do anything halfway, took these men, and eventually their families, into our lives forever.

If our story were once again in the news, it would have to read, “Baton Rougeans Open Hearts to International Students.” And they still call us Mom and Dad.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! (Hebrews 13:2 NLT)