Last week in addition to all the holidays activities, my husband and I were invited to a very special dinner. My husband teaches at our local university and is well loved by his students. Because our own children are still close to that college age, my husband understands the power of listening to his students and being compassionate and understanding. It was precisely because of those qualities we were invited to this family's home last week. This family has three daughters and one son in college and the three daughters were all in several of my husband's classes. Their parents flew in to attend the graduation of the son and one of the daughters.
We had never been invited to the home of any of his students before so this was something new to us, oh and in case I didn't mention, they are of the Muslim faith from Saudi Arabia. What cultural differences would await us? Were we dressed appropriately, bringing the right hostess gift, how do we introduce ourselves to their parents and shake hands or not?
We should not have worried. All of our nervousness disappeared when one of their sons met us outside in the driveway practically jumping up and down from excitement of our presence. We were ushered in with hugs and smiles, laughter and hand shaking. We were introduced to their older brother, littlest sister and then to dad and finally mom. It was like being at the home of our own family.
While the children spoke English very well, Dad and Mom did not so everything had to be translated throughout the evening. But that did not stop us from sharing wonderful, parenting moments. It was one of the most beautiful evenings I've ever experienced with total strangers. We shared a meal sitting on the floor around a beautiful setting of Saudi Arabian dishes including chicken and rice, fresh salad, baked vegetables, potato/carrot soup and joy. They wanted to know about our family and our children. We all nodded in commiseration at how hard it was to have kids so far away from home and how much you worry about them. They shared movies and pictures of Saudi Arabia and what it is like living there. They wanted to know all about our martial arts school and how we began in martial arts which led to a hilarious story about us dating. As one of sons began to translate my husband's story to his father, he was laughing so hard we all began laughing at him trying to translate and crack up at the same time.
It was very late before we pulled ourselves away from the laughter and warmth of that home that evening. At the very end of the evening as we said our thank you's I handed out several of my hand knit bears to the girls. They were a hit not only with the girls but with Mom and Dad too. They were proud their children had made such a great impression on us. We were touched that they showed us so much love and hospitality. I thanked God that we could share such a beautiful evening with a family who despite our language, culture and faith differences, showed that family love brings us all to common ground. That is truly what God wants us to have for one another.