Hosting: An Invaluable Growing Experience
Opening our home to international students has been a great experience for our family. From practicing hospitality, to experiencing a different culture, to witnessing our faith, hosting has been a truly enriching journey.
While in the beginning we were all a bit afraid of the unknown, not being able to picture what it would be like to have a stranger sharing our house and our meals day in and day out, our international students did not remain strangers for long. Bella, who is from China and stayed with us for two years, was very shy at first, but our young girls (who know little about boundaries and personal space) were soon hugging her like she was another sister. Little by little we got to know her, and were able to help her feel at ease and do better in school. We learned to pay attention to the little things that can help a guest feel more at home, like slowly introducing our pets, letting them help with chores, giving them some space when they needed it, or just asking how they are feeling and if there is anything we can do to help. We learned to share our family and home with those who are away from their own family, home, and culture.
As we got to know Bella, we learned much about her culture. If one looked up “China” or “Chinese Culture,” one could learn much from books, articles, and zillions of blogs, but it would all be abstract knowledge. We got to know a living person, a little ambassador of her country and her culture. Our loud family learned much from Bella’s soft-spoken politeness, her kindness, and her loving nature. Our minds were opened by a first-witness account of what life is like on the other side of the globe. Later we hosted Carlota, from Spain, who stayed with us just a short three months. A totally different personality, bold and outspoken, Carlota quickly became best friends with everyone. While the cultural differences were less pronounced, we still learned much about Spain and what life is like in a big European city. Recently we hosted young Evan, a 12-year old boy from China, for a week. It only took about an hour to learn that kids are kids all over the world! The most important lesson our family has learned, has lived, is that despite our differences, we all share some basic human traits. A person is a person, not matter where they are from!
Hosting has also given us a unique opportunity to be ambassadors of our country, and witnesses of our faith. No need to study diplomacy, travel overseas, or go on a mission trip! Our guests helped us slow down and think, “Why do we love our country? How do we live our Faith? Are we being good witnesses? Does the joy of the Good News shine forth at hour house?” While we’ve had some moments that would not be the best example of Christian joy, those not-so-proud moments have given us an opportunity to grow in humility and keep trying. We hope our international students have had a positive exposure of what a large Catholic American family looks like. We are not perfect, but we are happy. Life is good!
We are thankful for the opportunity to get to know these remarkable young people, brave enough to travel thousands of miles and live with complete strangers. They have greatly enriched our lives, and we hope we have enriched theirs. Our children have gained a better understanding of what life is like outside our bubble, they have practiced kindness to strangers, they have learned to appreciate the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, and they have been challenged to live their faith with joy. They have learned to be brave and take some risks: Emi traveled to China and Catalina is away in France for five months! Our international students have learned that America is not like the movies, our houses are less than picture-perfect, and not all Christians are saints (yet…but we keep trying!) Our host-children have been kind, respectful, and appreciative of every little thing. We have all learned to find common ground in order to build relationships. Hosting is an invaluable growing experience.
Post by: Sergio and Isabel Cueto, Chelsea family