An international family, like ours, needs to consider how to turn differences into strengths rather than allowing them to be weaknesses. As we prepared to bring our first children home from Russia, to join four other brothers, we didn’t want them to feel like they were different than anyone else in the family. Of course, that’s wishful thinking. Still, in an attempt to make them feel as much a part of the rest of the family as we could, we created our “International Family Wall.”
In my family we have several examples of people who have lived abroad. Between grandparents and siblings serving in the U.S. armed forces and Christian missions, we were able to hang the flags of eight different countries on the wall. We put them there, next to a picture of the family member, while in that country. Our Russian children, as they joined us, were each able to add their own picture and flag (the ninth country represented) to the wall. In doing this, they felt like they were a member of a special part of our “international family,” rather than an outcast. In the middle of our wall of flags and pictures hangs this explanation:
Our International Family
We have seen exclusive hotels, museums, cathedrals, mansions, palaces, courtyards, castles, estates, and Kingdoms.
We have visited in houses made from orange crates without running water or electricity and know those who have felt fortunate to have a tent to call home.
We have observed great acts of charity given with only the thought of making someone else’s life a little bit better.
We have witnessed others cruelly taking the lives of their fellow man.
We have known safety, liberty and freedom.
We have seen people, families and countries torn by the ravages of war.
We have been blessed with the warmth of home and family.
We have experienced true poverty within the walls of orphanages.
We have beheld great kindness given by rich and poor alike, manifested in many different forms.
We have seen abuse delivered by the wealthy, the destitute and all classes in between.
We have known the faithful who lose their lives in the service of others.
We have observed oppression and persecution.
We have been blessed to see evil so that we might recognize good. We have experienced sadness so that we might fully appreciate happiness. We have been lonely so that we can understand the blessings of family.
We are happy to have our home in America. But we are an international family. We have lived in other countries and have experienced many great and marvelous things while in them. We speak other languages. We love other people, cultures and lands. We recognize that we can learn from them all and experience the good that they have to offer.
We Are an International Family
Of course not every international family has the same background and opportunity that ours does. Still, there are always imaginative ways to bring out differences and to flood them with positive light. It just takes a bit of creative thinking.
Because we highlighted an irregularity from conventional families, our children are proud of their difference rather than feeling it is something to hide. They are happy to find their home in an international family.
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