I've worked and lived in 13 countries. Sometimes it has been easy to adapt to cultural, climatic, and culinary differences. Other times, it has been frustrating, especially living under the same roof with people who speak a language you can't follow.
But I've discovered that one of the deepest desires of people of any nationality, at any age, is to love and be loved. Love smoothes the way for cultural adaptation, and happier, richer shared lives.
The most abundant and reliable source of love is God, who is Love itself. The Bible says, "Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us ...." (I John 4:16, 17).
I'm learning that "living in love" is a full-time occupation. It means expressing patience, respect, understanding, caring, and compassion every moment of every day - whatever the time zone. I've found that the only way I can get better at it is to remember that my ability to do so comes from God. The universal family He loves is my universal family, too.
One member of that family is an Italian chartered accountant named Alberto, who lived with us in Boston while I taught him English. Earlier this year, he traveled more than 400 miles from his home in Milan to join us in Sorrento, where we were visiting.
He brought his wife, Rossana, whom he'd flown to Boston for our approval seven years before, and their sons Fede and Tommi, whom we'd not yet met. Alberto called them our nipoti Italiani (Italian grandchildren).
On the afternoon we met, the sun played across the scrolled orange tiles of the houses, and the Bay of Naples stretched out below us, blue and tranquil. In the fragrance of orange, privet, and wisteria, we greeted each other with an equally heady blend of ciao's, hi's, high-fives, and continental hugs.
This was a family occasion, an event marked by spiritual kinship, relaxed trust in one another, and a desire to leap geographical and language barriers and find true unity.
Alberto's arrival years ago, when we opened our home to welcome this stranger with a cultural background and lifestyle different from ours, was an answer to prayer.
The lessons I gave him for several hours a day brought much-needed income after I'd lost my job. He loved to hear that he was one of those "good" and "perfect" gifts from "the Father of lights" (see James 1:17). Also, that he was proof that our caring heavenly Father provides for everyone's needs.
We did what families do. We went to the supermarket and to church, on visits to relatives, to baseball games, and on late evening walks. He loved sharing in weekend excursions and was never shy to tell us what he liked for dinner. Here, his English never failed him!
Alberto's son Fede, at five, was a special delight during our recent visit. He greeted every adventure with cascades of words in Italian that we couldn't follow, but he communicated as effectively as Mark Antony on the steps of the Forum. Who needs words when sparkling eyes and small, darting fingers can say it better! Fede's affectionate behavior told me that there are no barriers among open hearts of any nationality.
There's a new family connection to be made with every canceled flight in crowded airports; with each home run by either team in any ballpark; in any check-out line, diner, or school playground; on beaches, city sidewalks, and subways.
The travel companions who saw us come and go with our Italian "relatives" were soon wrapped in the experience. They understood that even without the magic of the Bay of Naples, the orange blossoms, and mounds of gleaming pasta in ristoranti on cobbled backstreets, this "family" was special.
As Alberto put it, "Siamo una famiglia piena di gioia" ("We are a family filled with joy").
With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science.
Mary Baker Eddy (founder of the Monitor)
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor