I know that many who know me, or any member of my family, may think that our love for Disney World is a little much...or strange...or whatever. But, it truly is like a second home to us. We've been going for so many years that the second we drive through that big ol' sign, we know that we have arrived. The only thing that could possibly make it feel a little more like home would be the presence of "family."
Surprisingly, my mom seemed to find that "family" on a trip earlier this past year. My mother rarely encounters a stranger and would talk to a wall if it would talk back....especially about Disney. Fortunately, she picked the right person to chat-it-up with, Dennis, an intern from Botswana working as a Savannah guide at The Animal Kingdom Lodge resort. As someone who is very far away from his natural family, the Lord saw fit to make him an "American Family." After a Facebook friend request and couple trips to Disney later, we had the pleasure of hosting him and 3 of his fellow Disney Cast Members just before Christmas.
We were very excited to have our new friends visit us before they return home to their respective African countries in February. We were so excited to show them Atlanta and what we believe to be the greatest state in the USA. We were eager to ask them questions and learn more about them, their countries, their cultures....and that's exactly what we did. We learned a lot. We learned just how ignorant Americans can be...not all are, but many.
You see, we as Americans have everything we need right here. We have no need to look outward and what we know about other countries and cultures we have learned from, dare I say it? The tube, the tellie, TV...maybe a news paper...maybe. While there are many poverty stricken and oppressed African nations with so much civil unrest and disease, there are also places that are modern, healthy, thriving....and BEAUTIFUL. Unfortunately, many Americans (read: me and my family) assume that the prior picture is the whole truth, and while there is most definitely truth to it (I know it because I know people who have seen it first hand), it's not the whole truth. As Americans we see commercials of the starving children in gutters swatting flies and we assume that's the whole picture. We haven't even been taught the basics in geography to know where these real life problems are going on and where things are starkly different. Maybe we've been taught, but I think as a majority we don't care enough to actually learn it.
So here we are at a kitchen table with 4 Africans and we start asking questions like, "What's your favorite thing to eat?" expecting to hear answers like "porridge" or "beans" only be told "Chinese food." and I am so embarrassed to even admit this, but I was actually surprised that they had Chinese food in Africa. Dennis was so sweet and so patient and said " well, of course! We have Chinese people in Africa too." DOH|!!!!!!! Looking back, we all asked questions like that. We were so curious about their lives back home, but all I'm afraid it really did was expose just how egocentric we really are. It wasn't until we asked one of our visitors what the most surprising thing they have learned about Americans was and she answered "The silly questions they ask" Double DOH! They have been asked if they can see stars in Africa, if they have ever seen butterflies, if they can call the giraffes over to the guests. I felt a little better about my "Chinese Food" debacle, but then worse again when I realized I brought traditional African drums for them to play for us, thinking they enjoy it since they play at Disney all the time....only to find out that they've never touched a drum until they stepped foot on American soil. At this point, my whole family is smacking our dang heads.
I say all of this to say, that while we were thinking that they are so fortunate to be here in America, we are the ones who have been blessed. These sweet people taught us to look "out" a little more. They truly taught us that we are more alike than different. This may seem like such a simple lesson to some who are reading, and I get that. I love the USofA, with all my heart, but I think we all learned that there is just so much more.
Our sweet African friends are ending their time here in the states and will be on airplanes this weekend.
By this time next week, they'll be hugging the necks of their families. We are all so glad that we have had the pleasure of meeting such wonderful people, and bringing our friend, Dennis, into our hearts and family.
We are so sad to say goodbye, knowing that we will likely never meet again, but are thankful to have known him at all. Our trips "home" will never be the same.
|Photo Credit: My Momma|