Following my entry about Eduardo the other day, I received a note in the comment section from his daughter, Paula. I can't remember the last time a comment warmed my heart so much.
You've never met me but I'm Eduardo's daughter. My dad just sent this to me and I loved the story and the photos. My dad had quite the mustache back then. Hope all is well, I've heard lots about you and your family and how my dad had such a great experience with you. He always encourages me to go abroad for a course! Thanks for giving my dad such a great experience when he was my age
When she was born, Eduardo promised I would "get so tired" of seeing pictures and videos of her as she grew up, but his life got busy and I rarely heard about her, but I did get photos and video once in awhile. I still feel she is part of my life.
The day after Paula wrote her note, there was a note from Eduardo too:
Dearest Bev. I am sure you know that meeting you, Walt and the kids was such a positive experience in my life. The generosity and warmth was incredible and how I was made part of your family is definetly one of the highlights in my life. You are a very special person and those lucky to know you certainly understands. Thank you for the special memories and the friendship. I am very thankfull that our paths in life have crossed. I am also so glad that Paula sent you a message and I hope someday you will meet her. Thank you for the memories and my love to you all.
(He obviously learned English very well!)
It got me to think about the serendipitous things that happen in our lives that result in major life shifts. For example, I still remember the day that Sister Mary William stopped me between classes when I was a Freshman in high school and invited me to be the Sophomore editor of the school yearbook the following year. I credit that one brief interaction with starting me one the road to all the writing I've done throughout my life. I might have done it anyway...writing seems to run strongly in our family...but whenever I think of the various writing jobs I have had, from editor of the school newspaper to theater critic and all those newsletters in between, I always thank Sister Mary Williams for seeing something in me and pushing me in that direction.
My friend and old boss Ann never dreamed I'd end up managing two medical offices when she tossed a tape and a medical dictionary at me one day and said "Here. Transcribe this. I'll help you with words you can't understand."
I think we all hope that when we are gone we can feel that we have done a good thing if we have made a difference somewhere. Sometimes we may do some small thing that causes a big ripple and we may never know it. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we get to see the results of that small thing.
I am thinking back to one of the first groups I coordinated for The Experiment in International Living, a group from Chile. It would be the first time that I assigned visitors to host families and I hoped that I did it right.
One family consisted of Diane, a school friend of Jeri's, her parents, a daughter who had already left home, and a daughter who was mentally challenged, who lived in the home. When I looked through the dossiers on the students who were coming, there was a girl, Carolina, who had volunteered to work with mentally challenged people in Chile. I figured it would be a good match.
I couldn't possibly have planned how good it turned out to be.
The homestay was only for three weeks, but it worked beautifully and the family loved Carolina. She and Diane became great friends and promised to stay in contact with each other. They all do, of course, and so few actually keep up the contact once the guest returns to his or her home.
I don't know the extent of their continuing contact (and may make lots of mistakes in the telling of this story), but they visited each other back and forth, Diane going to Chile, Carolina coming back here. One year, Carolina had just become engaged and she and Diane were going to have a last fling before her wedding. I think they went to Disneyland or something like that. On the trip they met a charming man from Canada, Carolina fell for him, ended her engagement to her fiancee and soon after Diane was flying to Canada to be the maid of honor at Carolina's wedding.
A few years later, Carolina was maid of honor at Diane's wedding.
They continue to remain close friends and though they live a distance from each other, they continue to see each other regularly and their children have been raised as cousins to each other. Diane and her husband have their own vinyard in upstate New York and Carolina is a well known artist in Canada.
When I think of making a difference in the world, I always think of Carolina and Diane.
I also think of Sonia and Charlie. Sonia had been given my contact information by her friend, who had been an Experiment leader for a Brasilian group. Sonia was going to be traveling with her cousin and the cousin's boyfriend and he thought if she was near me, she might call me so we could meet. Well, the group was in San Francisco and Sonia was miserable. She was not getting along with her companions and she was running out of money and didn't know what to do. She called me in tears on night and I drove to Oakland to pick her up in their motel and bring her here to Davis. I never saw the cousin.
While here, Sonia met Charie in a bar one night and it was apparently love at first sight. She moved in with him for the remainder of her visit here. She eventually returned to Brasil and the romance cooled. Years later, she was going to be in California on business and asked if she could come to visit. As it turned out, the night she was flying in, we would not be home, so I told her where she could find a key to the house and that we would see her the next morning.
Then, just on a whim, I called Charlie to tell him she was coming and would be taking the bus from San Francisco. There was a long silence and then he said "what's her flight number?" She wasn't here when we returned home and we didn't see her for a week.
She and Charlie had picked up where they left off.
I was matron of honor at their wedding, and years later attended Sonia's citizenship ceremony. They now live in Napa and their two kids are in college.
Sonia is another one I think of when I wonder if I have made a difference in the world. Neither of these stories are as a result of anything out of the ordinary that I did, but it was like tossing a pebble in a lake and the ripples extending out much farther than I ever dreamed possible.
I have no idea of any of the other foreign students had that kind of life changing moment but each one of them changed our lives, not to the extent that Eduardo did, but, to quote Francoic Mauriac, a quote I used in the second Lamplighter history, which was dedicated to Gilbert...
"No love, no friendship, can ever cross the path of our destiny without
leaving some mark on it forever."
leaving some mark on it forever."
How lucky I have been in my life to have those kinds of relationships to look back upon.