Today I’d like to do something a little different. Our topic is helping children adapt to another culture. A few years ago I wrote this children’s story to illustrate the importance of preparing our children for change. For those of you with children, reading this story together may give you a springboard for discussing the changes they have experienced. For those of you without children, I hope you will be blessed as you take a few minutes to read a children’s story.
by Diane Constantine
Jon, a little four-year-old boy, wandered from the bedroom to the kitchen and then to the basement. Everywhere there was activity. Everyone was putting things into suitcases. Mommy, Daddy, and even big brother, Mike, were so busy putting things in suitcases that they had no time to talk to Jon.
He had seen his family pack for trips before. Mommy would wash all the clothes and carefully fold them and put them in suitcases. Daddy would take the full suitcases and put them in the trunk of the car in a special order. But Jon had never seen anything like THIS packing.
Mommy had been packing things in boxes for weeks. Every time Jon asked about the things, Mommy would say something different. Once she said, “Don’t worry, Jon, you won’t need these winter clothes anymore. Where we are moving, it is always hot. Besides, when we come back you’ll be too big to wear these clothes.” That box waited in the garage until someone came to take it away.
Another time she said, “Well Jon, we can’t take these things with us.” They were most of the family’s Christmas decorations! “These things will be in storage. When we come back to America, we will have them again.”
Another time she said, “This box and several more are going on a long boat ride. They will catch up with us. It might be a few months, but you’ll have these things again before you know it!”
But today, everything was different. Whenever someone spoke to Jon, they said, “Don’t be silly, these are going with us in the airplane.”
Jon knew everyone had been talking about their move to Nigeria. He knew it was supposed to be hot there all the time. He knew he would have a bedroom all his own. Mostly he knew how excited everyone else was about moving to Nigeria.
But Jon wasn’t sure he was going to like this. He didn’t like change. He didn’t like so much activity. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to never feel the chilly snow again. Mommy and Daddy tried to tell him what they could, but they were always so busy during the day and so tired at night. He never got all his questions answered.
Then the big day came. Everyone from the church crowded around to say goodbye. They prayed and laughed and cried together and then Jon and his family climbed into the airplane. Jon had never flown before, but he had seen people in movies ride in airplanes. This was very different. He was strapped into a seat for more hours than you can even imagine. Occasionally, he was allowed to get up and walk around the plane. But many hours were spent just sitting, looking at books, playing with a car, or watching a movie. He got so bored he fell asleep even when it wasn’t dark. Where were they going and what was it going to be like?
After a while everything became mixed up in Jon’s mind. He couldn’t decide if it was night or day. Breakfast seemed to be in the middle of the night and supper in the middle of the afternoon. They stopped in different airports. They all should have seemed different, but they seemed like one very long and strange place.
The Captain announced, “We have just landed in Lagos, Nigeria.” As the door of the airplane opened, a wall of hot, steamy air hit his face. It took his breath away for a second and then sweat began to pour down Jon’s back.
This was a different airport! Everyone here was black. They talked funny and they all were in a great rush. As Jon saw his suitcases come on the conveyor belt, several different black men grabbed the suitcases and started going in different directions. Jon yelled that those were his, but nobody listened to him.
A big, white man with a deep voice hugged Jon and his family, then got all the black men to put the suitcases in one van. Suddenly, the full van bounced and jolted on its way. He tried to see everything, but soon got so sleepy that he missed the whole ride to Benin City.
The big, white man took Jon’s family to their new home. Jon was happy to find his suitcases had all followed them to their new home. He thought, “Now everything will be just like home.”
Jon soon learned that everything was different. So much had changed in such a short time. Now Jon’s family lived in an apartment instead of a house. The other people in their building were white, but everyone else that lived near them was black. The apartment only had a little furniture, no carpets on the floor, and windows that were always open. Jon quickly learned that the best place in each room was under the huge fan that seemed to blow at hurricane force.
It would have been good if someone could have told Jon how different life in Africa would be. It would not have seemed so strange and frightening. But then Africa is something you really must experience for yourself.
Jon learned that the Africans love to tell stories. The stories the students told helped to make some things seem much less frightening and a lot more fun. Jon asked lots of questions and listened carefully to the answers he was given. Soon Nigeria seemed like home. A very different home, but it was Jon’s home now.
Two years later, a six-year-old Jon sat on a curb near his apartment. His chin rested in his hands and a tear rolled down his cheek. Jon and his family were leaving Nigeria soon. Now THIS was home! He was sad to leave his friends. He still didn’t like change and he still didn’t like so much activity.
But Jon had learned a lot in the last two years. He learned that where your family is, it is home. It doesn’t matter if it is hot or cold. It doesn’t matter if the people around you are black or white, they could be your friends. It doesn’t matter if you have the same toys or not, boys always play with something. And best of all, God never leaves you. He can make any place home.