Sigh… I had hoped that things would turn out differently… that the 21 year old intern from North Ireland would decide to spend his last week in Huaraz going on a trek, or filling up his time with day trips to the many beautiful tourist locations in our area. But he had just spent a busy week with a mission team, was looking forward to relaxing for a few days, and he was happy to take us up on our earlier offer to spend those days at our house.
I had nothing against this particular young man; in fact, I had only met him briefly. It’s just that I was not feeling good about life in general at the moment. Homeschool was NOT going well, which is evident in the looks of complete boredom on the boys’ faces on the day that I was mean enough to make them walk 3 blocks down the street to look at a model of Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” Ade had been gone more days than he was at home, which didn’t help with the teenage attitudes, and he was getting ready to head out on another trip to a village across the mountains. I was tired of hosting teams, and to top it all off, even the dogs were misbehaving!
To make matters worse (at least in my mind), we had been interacting with a lot of 20-somethings recently, and I wasn’t that impressed. Oh, they were nice enough “kids,” but I had gotten a bit jaded by what I perceived as their total dependence on social media. It seemed like the virtual world was more real to them, or at least more meaningful, than taking the time and energy to interact with those of us who were sitting right in front of them in the physical realm. (Or maybe we were just too old to be interesting.)
So when this young man brought his bags over and settled into our guest room, I’ll admit that I was sort of dreading the coming week.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Like the other young people, he admired our American-style house and appreciated the food, but he also helped wash the dishes. And he didn’t immediately connect to our Wi-Fi after dinner, but spent time getting to know our kids, and he patiently answered all of my questions about Ireland, my great-great grandfather’s homeland. He also told us about other mission trips he’d been on, including the not-so-great experiences that left him feeling slightly ashamed for thinking he and his team could “save the world” through their two week trip.
I was impressed by his humility and by his maturity. And contrary to what I was expecting, we had fun while he was here. We went on a picnic, and spent a day at the hot springs. I had surprisingly found real pumpkins when we were on the coast a week before, so he and my boys had fun carving the Jack-o-lanterns. He fit into our family like the older, red-headed brother. (Although he called his hair color “ginger.”)
I drove him to the bus station on the morning that he left town, and as I gave him a hug and said goodbye, he responded with five of the kindest words.
“You’re a really good mom.”
Now that was a completely unexpected comment from a 21 year old! Of course, he could have just been homesick and missing his own mother, but he had already told me that he loved being in Peru, and wasn’t homesick at all… (don’t tell his mom!)
I was expecting the same comments that I had been hearing from the other 20-somethings… “Thanks for the good food. We love your house, it’s SO comfortable and American! Thanks for sharing your Wi-Fi.” But for whatever reason, he chose to say those five kind words. And I’m guessing that he still has no clue how much they meant to me.
You see, like most of us, I really want to be a good mom… and I have some beautiful memories of those perfect days when I was sure I was living up to that goal.
But as I mentioned earlier in this post, things had been a bit rough in school and around home and with attitudes and all that, and instead of the sweet pictures and the lovely memories, I was faced with situations a bit more like this…
This was typical of the kind of “looks” I was getting…
… and this is how I felt.
So those five kind words … “You’re a really good mom” … made a big difference to me that day. It was almost like that sweet, ginger-haired young man gave me the chance to look beyond the somewhat difficult teen and pre-teen years and see a bit of hope on the other end. For a moment, I pictured my own raven-haired sons telling me the same thing after they’ve gone away to college and become world travelers.
So, James, if you ever read this, thank you for your kind words. They got me through a bad day… actually more than one bad day, as I’ve remembered your comment several times since then. I hope you said the same thing to your own mom as soon as you got home. And I hope that I and all of the rest of us will take to heart how meaningful kind words can be… even when there are just five of them.