Everyday heroes we encounter are important influences on our lives. They have the ability to alter our thinking and, often, even the direction of our decision-making. This post is part of a series I am writing about the heroes I have met.
Marital Status: married
Children: two daughters
Place of Origin: Ohio, USA
How we met:
When I first came to live in Germany, all those years ago, it was winter. It was dark and dismal outdoors. Indoors it was lonely. I felt lamed.
Not knowing how to speak German was a barrier. As the only woman in a large department of socially inept engineers, it wasn’t easy getting to know people. When I met an American woman, Karen, whose husband was an officer in the US Army Base down the road from where I worked, my world changed.
Karen was actively immersed in the social and cultural life of the city; unlike many of the officers’ wives who lived very isolated lives on base. She was a member of the Bach Choir, part of the women’s literary society, and active in the neighbourhood community where she and her husband lived on the outskirts of the city.
What made her special was her willingness to (learn and) speak German, as well as her willingness to (learn and) respect the various social norms prevalent to the area. Up until the time I met Karen, I had been struggling unsuccessfully to learn German. And, my attitude towards the mountain of social norms I was being buried under was, “If you could just leave me alone, I’d love to leave you alone.” Karen, in her infinitely gracious and gentle manner helped me to surrender myself to my lot. Through example, she taught me more about how to be happy living as a foreigner in a foreign land than anyone I have met before or since.
What she taught me:
The first way to get to know someone is through language, then shared interests and experiences, and finally, through shared sense of humour and value system. She also showed me that there wasn’t any short cut to get there.