This is Emily. She is from China and she is staying with my friend, Amy, for a month. I met her last night and I loved her instantly.
My friend, Amy, is amazing. She has three beautiful, smart, calm, talented, graceful daughters. She has remodeled her whole house almost entirely on her own. (Her theory is "You can do just about anything with power tools and YouTube." ...if only that were true for all of us...) She is a fantastic cook. She throws a warm, welcoming party where everyone who walks into her house feels like they're the most important person there. Oh, and she is also currently serving as the Stake Young Womens' President. And she makes it all look so peaceful and enjoyable. I love being around Amy.
I shouldn't have been surprised that she also happens to have opened her home to a perfect stranger for an entire month over the holidays.
Emily is one of three adult chaperones from a Chinese orphanage who brought 26 kids to Dallas to live with various host families from December 18-January 18 with the hope of finding permanent homes for them. They are older kids (ages 5-12) who are "difficult to place." What a challenging and fulfilling and heartbreaking career choice.
Sometimes there's a language barrier when you meet someone from another country. But there wasn't with Emily. I was totally fascinated by what Emily does and wanted to ask her a million questions, but I was worried she wouldn't understand me or that she would be annoyed by my prying. She wasn't. She speaks perfect English and probably has a better understanding of the American culture than I do. We talked for a little while in a quiet room about the orphans she works with and the percentage rate of success they have with this program. I asked her if the flight home with all of them is difficult, if the ones who aren't adopted get to come another time, and how many parties of orphans she has chaperoned. She is a remarkable woman who has seen and done much in her lifetime.
And do you know what? For all of that fascination I had with her, and all the questions I wanted to ask her, she was equally excited about me. Apparently she was in my Gospel Doctrine class last Sunday and something about the lesson touched her. (I showed a couple of videos about the Savior and invited three or four people to talk about the ways they've felt the Spirit of Christmas in their lives, so I can take ZERO credit for whatever moved Emily.) But she knew who I was before I even asked her a question, and she was as eager to talk to me as I was to talk to her.
We spent the whole evening at Amy's and Emily was right in the middle of everything we did. Craig and McKay educated her about University of Texas football and taught her how to make the "Hook 'em, Horns!" sign which she was thrilled to be able to take home with her. She willingly and enthusiastically played the craziest games with us and loved them. And then as the night ended and we were all leaving, Emily threw her arms around me and thanked me (for the THIRD time) for my Sunday School lesson.
I have no idea what religious beliefs Emily comes from or what she knows about the Savior. I have no idea what her life will be like when she goes back to China. I have no idea if I'll get to talk to her again before she leaves or if she'll even remember last night's dinner and games in a month or a year, but I want to remember her. How grateful I am for the opportunity to connect with this amazing woman. What a gift she was on the very first day of the year to remind me that there are tiny miracles everyday, and that there is JOY in the most unexpected places.