08 January 2011
Dear Friends & Family ~
Jane and I enjoyed lunch at a Chinese buffet today, pausing in the middle of taking down Voyageur's Christmas decorations. Our marina friends who traveled home for the holidays are starting to re-appear and the Korean, Japanese and Chinese students who stayed with us and other Memorial Presbyterian Church host families have returned to their respective campuses across the country to begin a new semester.
When we opened the fortune cookies that arrived with our bill, they read as follows:
(Jane) A mile walked with a friend contains only one hundred steps.
(Bob) 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
We both thought the simultaneous arrival of these two cellophane and cookie wrapped assertions an interesting coincidence and agreed that when considered together they suggested, with subtle cynicism, that neither statistics nor friendships are quite what they're cracked up to be. In other words, to quote Charles Dickens, "Bah Humbug".
Living on a boat as we do and moving from place to place, harmonizing with or perhaps escaping from the changing seasons, we sometimes find ourselves feeling a bit "apart and away from home". This is ironic in view of the fact that our travels continuously bring us into relationship with wonderful new friends that we would have otherwise not had the opportunity to meet and enjoy. Still, the feeling arises from time to time, especially over the holidays.
Because of this and perhaps because we could identify with their situation over the holidays (dorms and dining halls closed and thousands of miles away from their homes and families) we responded positively and enthusiastically to the opportunity to welcome foreign students aboard with us for Christmas and New Year last year and this. They came to us through Christmas International House, a peacemaking program built on the premise that there is and will continue to be room at the inn. Since 1965, thirty thousand international students have been hosted by CIH families in fifty communities throughout the United States. The hospitality of these families offered through their various churches and civic groups reinforces the notion that, behind our diverse manners of dress, religious affiliations and political ideologies, we all share the same round blue home as members of one human family. Jane and I have been blessed to host a student from China each of the past two years.
Over the coming weeks and months the mystery of memory will sift through our images of Christmas in St. Augustine and will store away moments to recall for the rest of our lives. . . . memories, though both causal and comforting, that will be sustaining in the times when we feel a bit "apart and away from home".
As we take down our bow wreath, clove and ribbon covered oranges and our tiny Christmas tree, Jane and I are once again looking forward wistfully to next summer's visits with family and friends to the north. But we are also warmed, in the moment, by thoughts of our new CIH friends. It is true that we were in relationship with them long before they visited St. Augustine. After all, we have shared the planet with them for some time. But when they chose to come to St. Augustine, our friends Jing and Yizhou changed the world in ways the coming years will tell and, in the process, changed Jane and me.
Blessings friends, one and all. Happy New Year !
Bob & Jane Fulton