“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscalia
Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Colombia where I offered several presentations on behalf of Fundacion Integrar. I was over 2000 miles away from my family, in a country I’d never been, hearing a language I didn’t understand. To say that I was anxious and feeling homesick would be scratching the surface. Fortunately I was traveling with two of my colleagues and a generous host named Andres who helped put me at ease.
We arrived a few days before our presentations so Andres could show us the beauty of Colombia. As excited as I was about the new adventure, I was still anxious. That was until I met Adelaida (Andres Niece), who accompanied us on our tour. She is 15 years old, speaks three languages, including English, and had recently returned from an 8 month learning opportunity in Germany.
She was quiet, kind and friendly. As an English speaker, I was able to ask her questions about the sites around us. She was very generous in helping me understand this new world around me. Between Adi (pronounced Ahdee), the name I ended up calling her, her uncle Andres and my colleagues we had our share of laughs which was making the newness of everything much easier to take in.
As we walked, I asked Adi questions about her trip to Germany and her ambitions now that she was back. She described her dream of being a cardiologist and studying in America, and her fears of feeling so out of place in a different country. WOW did that sound familiar! She described her time in Germany as feeling lonely, how difficult it was for others to pronounce her name and the feeling that she was often on her own.
My mind fast forwarded through the morning we’d had so far, the laughter and the smiles that helped put me at ease and so I asked Adi a question.
“Did you ever laugh or smile with your friends in Germany?”
“Yes” she replied.
“Did you feel alone then?”
She paused for a moment, then looked at me and smiled. I smiled back, we smiled together, and in that moment we weren’t alone.
I explained the feeling of homesickness I’d been having since arriving in Colombia, and how similar my experience has been to the moments she described in Germany. The revelation that sharing a laugh or a smile could crack the shell of loneliness helped her recall countless moments she’d shared with others while in Germany. I enjoyed watching her smile as she recalled the fun she’d had.
At the end of long day of new experiences and many more smiles, I hugged Adi and thanked her for all the help she gave me that day. She thanked me as well for the simple conversation that opened her eyes a little more.
Thanks for being you.
Brian R. King LCSW is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.