Post Exchange

I’ve been back for more than a month, and am approaching my second month home. Life at home is hard and strange. I am consumed by homesickness far more than I was when I left home. I find myself thinking always of what I had three months ago. Tomorrow will be a month since I first met Tonahlli, one of my best friends, who became my sister. I don’t know if she feels the same way that I do, but to me she is closer to kin; a kind of relationship I lack here at home. But I gained many sisters on exchange. I miss Ximena, Khrizya, Tonahlli, Lou, and Yasmin. Without them, I no longer feel at home. They’re siblings that I am much closer to in a way than I am with my actual siblings. I miss all of my friends, who have returned to their home countries. No longer will I see all my friends gathered into one place. We have scattered like dandelions carried on a breeze, separated by oceans, rivers, and mountains.

But I don’t just miss my friends. I miss living in a real city. I miss the sound and bustle. The comforting movement of the train as you go to school. The sound of church bells tolling the hour. I miss the metropolitan chatter of the city, the sounds of English, German, French, Polish, Arabic, Turkish, and Russian all mixed up into a sound that is not specific to one country, but to the diverse peoples of our planet.

But home is not the same since I left. The home is not different only because I have changed my home to a different place. The luster of America has changed. I find myself shocked as I look around. I thought that I knew my home, but I have discovered a new place. I have thought about what I would write here for a long time, and though it may not be pleasing for everyone to here I think it is necessary to say, to explicate in no unclear terms how I feel about my home country, its state and its role in our world. The United States is the most important country in the world. The United States is great, but we have forgotten why our country is great, or the nature of greatness has changed since the turning of the centuries. I am by no means an expert of foreign relations, nor in any subject that pertains to this, but I have spent time among a group of people who are as diverse as any on Earth. Rotary has opened my eyes to cultures, languages, and people who I would never have thought of had I not left the United States. And this diversity is what America has forgotten, or taken for granted. America is greatly diverse, but we have forgotten what that is. We struggle with prejudice like black Frenchmen, Turkish Germans, and so many other people across the world, but we have lost sight of the world, and closed ourselves to it. I have striven to live my exchange by the Four Way Test,

Is it the Truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better relationships?

Is it beneficial to all concerned?

Though it is not rational to imagine that everyone would live by this, it is still a goal to strive for. I think the United States must embrace this, as the world must. In our world of change, the needs of nations alone are no longer able to sufficiently care for our world. The United States is America, but also only a part of America, only a part of our world. Europe struggles with these selfsame problems, and I find myself sympathizing with those in Chemnitz this past evening, who came together to play music, and deny hate, un-acceptance, and to embrace a world where we care not only about the needs of nations, but of people, of the world. Can we claim to be Americans when we deny safety to refugees from Guatemala? They too are Americans, struggling with a legacy that is not only Guatemalan or Latin American, but American. If we are to claim that we are the greatest country on the planet, that we are the home of the brave, the land of the free, we must have the courage to meet challenges across the world, whether they conform to our view or not. We must have the wisdom to approach challenges in a humane way. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Is it beneficial to all concerned? I am not naive enough to say that every interaction will or can conform to the Four Way Test, but we must hold our government to this most of all. The United States of America has a responsibility as a shining city on a hill. As the greatest country on Earth we have a responsibility to help all people on our world. Rotary International is not a government, and nor is it the solution to all the worlds problems but it gives us the way to approach these problems.

I’m not sure if I have written something that accurately expresses the way I feel. I am afraid that in our imperfect world it will be only interpreted as a call for liberal politics because of the language I use and the examples I have given, but bigotry and exclusion comes from both sides of the aisle, and we owe each other the love and acceptance due to any person. I see it as my duty to love all people, regardless of differences. I have read, “Death is as light as a feather, but duty is as heavy as a mountain.” Love and the Four Way Test are my duties, in my mind. I ask you if you would join me in that.

It is not easy to step away from things and ask ourselves

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better friendships?

Is it beneficial to all concerned?

It is the hardest to do when care deeply about and are emotional about what we are discussing, but it is necessary for happy lives, and a brighter future.

I wish that I could add something that is lighthearted to a post that I think is either sad or very serious, but it is hard to be home, and as much as I enjoy being around my family, I miss my old host family. I miss my old home, my old city. I miss being with the best group of friends in the world. It is late, and I suppose I should get some sleep.

Ich wünsche Ihnen einen wunderschön guten Tag.

Have a blessed day.

Hasta la proxima vez.

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