For the second year in a row, our family had the honor of hosting two children from the African Children’s Choir. Since 1984 over one thousand children have toured as members of the African Children’s Choir. Their message of hope has touched audiences around the world, and changed the lives of thousands more of Africa`s most vulnerable children.
The African Children`s Choir is just one program run by Music for Life. The tour raises money to support educational and humanitarian programs across East and South Africa. Wonderfully, their tour once again brought them to Austin for a concert. Last Thursday, we picked up our guests at a nearby church that served as a depot of sorts from which to pair host families with members of the choir. And for two days our family grew by two as Daniel (8), Timothy (8), piled into the car and we headed home for dinner.
The short time spent with our guests was a wonderful experience for my entire family. And while their voices and concert inspire audiences, it was their humble and powerful example that provided my family with good lessons and a bit of a reality check. A few of these lessons are worth noting here:
1. Sacrifice is a Relative Term.
Too often we moan and groan about things like taking the trash out, working on the road, late nights at the office, cleaning our room, etc.. For up to 17 months Daniel and Timothy tour the world in buses away from their families so that they can provide for an education and a square meal, not only for themselves, but for many back home. Their mornings are early and their evenings are sometimes late. Yet they laugh and show their appreciation and warmth with the most beautiful of smiles.
2. Take Only What They Need, Appreciate All they Receive
This lesson was driven home most succinctly at the dinner table. Wanting so much to provide a great meal for our guests, my wife and I took extra care in preparing something they would love. One might guess that these kids would go back for seconds, fall for the sweets and all the trappings of the American diet. Rather, they often preferred much smaller portions than were offered, were very modest in their desire for things like ice cream, cookies, etc.. They ate anything with appreciation and showed their thankfulness with hugs after meals. More than once I caught myself staring my own kids down with a look like, “Are you getting this? Cause if your not taking mental notes, you need to be”. Admittedly, I ate less at our meals with our friends from Africa.
3. Acknowledge People and Let Them Know You Care
The children from the choir refer to their hosts as “Auntie” and “Uncle”. This endearing tradition made us feel great. During their stay, not a time passed when they didn’t wake in the morning, arrive during the day, enter from another room, that they did not hug you and say something like, “Thank you Uncle Mike” or “Thank you Auntie Peggy”. Had they forgotten or just missed one, I would have been distraught. My point here is that they took every opportunity to show their care and appreciation. It made us feel warm and it demonstrated how much less we did so for each other in our immediate family. In light of this, I am now on a personal hugging campaign from room to room.
I believe that too often we get locked in our ways, trapped in narrow thinking and perhaps don’t care for others because our focus is placed too squarely on ourselves. Our kids complain, we complain and then we complain that our kids complain. Funny how that works. Let’s face it, we got it good and maybe the problem with our families and perhaps this country to a large extent is that we got it too good for too long. Happiness and contentment is always a faster rabbit when we choose to always chase it. Every once in a while a couple of 8 year old kids from Africa need to come home with you, to show you that there is more to life than second helpings of pasta salad, and that being ‘Uncle Mike’ for a couple of days is alright by be.
To learn more about the African Children’s Choir and Music for Life visit their website.