To the editor:
Congratulations to Southwest Florida ! Recently a group of more than 100 teenagers participated in a cultural exchange program. Teens from Spain, France, Hong Kong and China came to stay for nearly three weeks. They stayed with host family volunteers.
My family participated in our second year as a host family. Last year we hosted a young lady from Spain, this year, we had a French Stork Delivery. Our young person was 15 years old.
We dispelled a few myths. (No, Americans do NOT eat at McDonalds every day for lunch, and No, we do not eat dinner every night in front of the TV) What she learned on her own, was that Americans are a kind and generous people. She was amazed at how friendly the toll booth collectors were, smiling and saying hi and thank you. She was also surprised at the cashiers in the grocery stores talking to customers and not acting like machines in just processing the order.
But a few acts, unsolicited, have left her with a true sense of what I think sets us apart from many nations. WE care for one another. She lost her cell phone in the Edison Mall. A woman found it in the restroom and went to great lengths to try and find her and return the iphone to her. She was crying never to think she'd see her phone again and her parents were going to be so mad at her for being so careless. The joy was surely on her face when we found the lady who had the phone and reunited her with it. The same night we took her to her first American Baseball game. A man who was sitting behind us couldn't help but hearing us explain the sport to her. She wanted to catch a foul ball and take back a souvenir from the game. She was thrilled we had "won" a free bobble head Jericho dog being one of the first 750 people that night to the game, but she wanted a foul ball. The man behind us, he left and came back a few minutes later with a real Miracle Baseball and gave it to her. He explained to her it had been in the game and didn't need to worry about foul balls the rest of the night.
One of the shining moments, we had the opportunity to talk with her about our police department as she was very afraid when we saw officers at Cape Harbor one evening. I explained to her how nice our force was, and they are only mean when they need to be, when they have to be to protect people. I didn't convince her, but she at least posed next to the squad car but kept an eye on the police man who was talking with people at the venue. At a party over the weekend, we introduced her to a retired police officer. We explained to him our conversation on how scared she was of the officers. He understood completely. European officers are scary people he agreed! Later that evening, he asked if he could stop over our home to bring her something. He came and brought her a special item she could take back to France from a "real" police officer.
She was so shocked that so many people are nice to "total strangers". So, Southwest Floridians, everyone from Toll Booth Collectors, Cashiers, to citizens in ball parks, to retired public safety personnel, you all helped to make a lasting positive impression on a young lady from another country. Just imagine if we all continued to be nice to everyone we meet, we just may make such a positive ripple in the world, a ripple of goodness.