Every story has a beginning. Some start with, “Once upon a time. . . . ” Others start with, “In the beginning . . . ” My story has many starts, but the one I want to tell today starts with the people in this picture.
I could start it with the “Once upon a time” opener, but then you might expect a conclusion along the lines of ” . . . and they lived happily ever after.” I’m not to the end of the story yet. I don’t know if the pronoun is correct. I’m convinced there will be the happily ever after part. I’m just not there yet.
If I started with the “In the beginning . . . ” line, it would take us back much further than I want to go. With apologies to George Lucas, I will start with another well known introduction.
A long time ago, in a country far, far away I encountered an amazing group of people. Within this amazing group, there was a smaller group that can only be described as spectacular. Most people called them sophomores.
What made those 10th graders spectacular? That’s as easy to say as “Yes!” to an offer of ice cream and as difficult to nail down as jello to a tree. I would say, “They just are”, but that’s not satisfactory.
As a class they worked together well. They deeply cared for each other. They enjoyed life. They were one of the most intelligent classes I’ve ever encountered. Many of them loved God wholeheartedly. Laughter was their trade language.
I planned to spend one year with them. I planned to teach them world history for 10 months and then return to my life in New York. I didn’t plan to fall in love with them, but I did.
In spite of cheating on review games, bringing a snake into my classroom, and occasionally making me consider pulling my hair out, they convinced me to stay in Africa a second year. During that second year I realized (with their kind help) that my absence during their senior year was unacceptable.
In so many ways this group of Third Culture Kids helped set the course of my life. Before I knew the term TCK, I knew this was an extraordinary people group. In so many ways, they were my beginning.
They helped me learn the challenges and opportunities a boarding school can provide as well as the challenges and blessings of life in their corners of West Africa. They opened my eyes to the importance of teachers and dorm parents sticking around for more than a year or two. As learners, they helped me find my stride as a teacher. As people, they deepened my understanding of intentionality and commitment.
In short, they helped me mature and set me on my path to working with TCKs both in and out of the classroom.
This summer I spent a glorious 24 hours with the class members who could make it to Minnesota/ Wisconsin for an early 20 year reunion. What an amazingly overwhelming day it was! 19 years after their graduation they are even more spectacular than I’d remembered. My eyes haven’t leaked such joyful tears in a very long time.
ICA Class of ’91 thanks for more than 20 years of friendship. Thanks for growing up with me. Thanks for instilling in me a passion for working with TCKs and their families. Thanks for being my genesis.