I’m sure you’ve heard the tale of the Prodigal Son. It’s a Bible story in which a young man goes off to discover the world, taking his prematurely obtained inheritance with him, only to return home later in shame, hoping that his dad will forgive him and give him a job. This is often told as a cautionary tale to young people about asking for things that aren’t yours and not listening to your elders, but it’s also a tale of forgiveness when the father welcomes the son home with open arms and makes him an honored part of the family.
Deep within this tale is another theme that we seldom talk about – which is the desire of young people to go out on their own and explore the world, to find their niche and understand more about who they are by experiencing other cultures and learning about other places.
I have one of these world travelers in my family. As a mom, it was somewhat terrifying to see my 19 year old son head off to Spain on his own, even if it was with a university-sponsored study abroad program. So you can imagine my relief when he emailed me last week to let me know he’d arrived in Chicago, and my delight on Saturday when he arrived in Denver.
I haven’t yet had time to learn all about what he did (it was a six-week stay, after all, and he’s been here less than 48 hours), but I’ve heard enough to know that he had a great time and certainly learned a lot. He also came home truly fluent in Spanish and with good experiences he can put on his resume. As an international business and Spanish major, studying abroad is an important part of his college experience. It’s also a chance to experience a whole different set of circumstances, and not only learn what others are like but to learn more about who you truly are as a reflection of the people that you meet. Frankly, I’m just a little jealous but also tremendously proud and happy that he had such a great time.
Sadly, I can’t just pick up and leave for a couple of months to experience another culture. (I think my boss might notice). But maybe I need to find more ways to meet people from other cultures and stretch my horizons right here, where I live. Surely there are opportunities to do that. I’ll need to spend a little time and figure that out.
What about you? What do you do to keep from getting stale? How do you make sure you’re still learning and having new experiences? Please share your insights in the comments. I might learn from them!