For months everyone has been asking if we will host again. And the short answer is yes.
We had a great kid, and a great year. That's not to say it was always perfect, but that would have been an unreasonable expectation. No family is perfect. But what I've come to realize is that its not just about our experience as hosts, or a teenager's experience as an exchange student. It's about something bigger.
Nadin came to us from the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES). Started by the U. S. State Department after 9/11 this scholarship program recruits the finest young adults it can find from predominantly Muslim countries to spend a year in the U.S. They do this in hopes of current and future generations being able to grow up in a world of peace and understanding, instead of hatred and fear.
And if there is anything I've learned this year, it's that this program is absolutely necessary. I've been repeatedly disappointed by the words, actions, and internet postings of strangers, acquaintances, and "friends." They post things based only on fear and ignorance and lack of understanding or education. They say things things thinking they won't hurt anyone. But they do. They are hurting their neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members.
They think it's ok to judge an entire population of people based on a few bad ones. But it's not. It's not ok to judge even one innocent person based on the action of another. I wouldn't want to be judged based on the actions of certain other veterinarians. Men don't want to be judged on the actions of rapists. Christians don't want to be judged on the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. I could go on, but my point should be clear. And the, "but I didn't mean you when I said that" mentality isn't ok either.
I have to believe programs like this will help. The alternative is too depressing. There are so many amazing places, people, and cultures in the world to see and experience. Some are too dangerous to go to, and some people are too afraid to go even where it's safe. And we, as a species, are missing out. Wouldn't it be better to live in a world where we can freely move about, travel to far away places and be greeted with open arms? Wouldn't it be better to embrace visitors in our homeland rather than eye them with suspicion and prejudice?
I realize there are bad people out there. Bad people of every religion, race, nation, and culture And I'm all for finding a way to stop them from doing terrible things, but we can't do it by victimizing innocent people.
And as much as I don't want to bring politics into this, it's hard to ignore the fact that there is a man running for president in this country that is perpetuating the same kind of xenophobic propaganda we need to put an end to. As a nation I think we should be ashamed and embarrassed for supporting this kind of leader. But political opinions are a complex subject and I won't pretend to understand the voting choices of every American citizen. I also realize that some people reading this will still vote for this man. And the best I can do is hope that you, your children, and your loved ones are never subject to the kind of discrimination and prejudice he supports. Because no decent person deserves that.
So there is the long answer. And it still yes. For more about hosting, and the YES program please visit this website. And even if the YES program is not for you, there are many young people from around the world in other programs who would love to come and share their culture with you and learn about yours. We can change the world, even if it's only a little at a time. We have to.