At the Rotary District Conference yesterday, we arrived in the cold rain not entirely sure what was on the schedule for the day. Soon after we got in the doors of the Kokkola town hall, we began seeing so many friendly, familiar faces we have met along the way. Hosts coming up to tell us hello again, and ask how we enjoyed our trip. During our last presentation, it was really something special to look out and see so many generous people who gave us a warm bed, an afternoon cup of coffee, or took the time out of their busy schedule to tell us about themselves and the work they do in life that makes them happy.
And then there were the Rotary Youth Exchange students, a group of 16 and 17 year olds that are sponsored by local clubs to come and study in Finland for a year and stay with host families. No matter what country they were from, they all briefly introduced themselves...in Finnish. (Maybe there is still hope for me and my Finnish skills.) Later I spoke to one of the girls from Germany, and she was telling me about her stay, how she loved it, and how much she has learned in the 8 months she has been here. It was really impressive to see so many young students from all over the world getting to study in a foreign country and really enjoying themselves.
In every home in the last month, I have felt very welcome. I often heard the words, "Please make yourself at home." It was never difficult to do. I can't wait to have an opportunity to pay it forward, and give someone who is very far from home, a place that they will be able to call "home," even if just for a day or two, or maybe even for a few hours. Every little effort from my host families to make home feel a bit closer meant so much, and that is something I will always remember from this trip. No matter where you call home, it's never easy to leave and always good to come back.
Home Sweet Home...Whether in Kansas or in Finland.