I have spent a good part of my adult life either living or traveling in other countries than my own.  Four years in London, 4 years in Kuala Lumpur, 8 years in Brussels; with a lot of stateside moving before, in-between and after.  My family is a global one, with our 3 boys born and raised across three continents.  It was, and is, a wonderful life that I wouldn’t trade in for anything. I have so many stories from our travels that have ground in me the belief that we are all very much more the same inside, no matter how different we may be on the outside.  As the Covid-19 virus continues to terrorize the world, I see this more now than ever.  The virus doesn’t notice the color of our skin, our religion or our culture, it only notices that we are human.

When we moved from London to Malaysia in 1994, my oldest son, Matt was 19 months old, and my youngest son Nick was 4 months old.  My husband Tom, had moved to Kuala Lumpur in October to start his new job and I went back to the US on Maternity leave with the boys to stay with my parents for a few months to get our youngest, Nick, all of his vaccinations in before he was allowed to fly to Malaysia.  In December, Tom came over to take the whole family back-a daunting 35 hour door-to-door journey with a baby and a toddler. 

After flying from Indianapolis to LA, then LA to Narita, Japan; we found ourselves in a lounge for a 4 hour layover.  We had been traveling well over one full day by this time.  It was late at night in Japan, and Nick was asleep in his baby carrier, with Tom asleep next to him with one arm thrown over the carrier.  Matthew was wide awake and bored.  He and I left the lounge to explore a bit, his little hand in mine.  We found a lovely playground area in the airport not far from the lounge.  There was another young mother there with her 2 year old, I guessed that they might have been from India.  For a while, we sat next to each other and laughed at our boys playing hide and seek, chasing each other and generally doing everything that two toddler boys do.  Matthew was starting to finally get tired after a bit, so I took the opportunity to get him to go back with me, thinking I might be able to change places with Tom for a quick nap…if Nick wasn’t awake and hungry at least.  I stopped by the bathroom on the way back to change Matt’s diaper, and as we were coming out of the bathroom, I saw my new friend running towards me in distress without her son.  She had lost him, in the same way have all mothers have lost our toddlers, by turning your back for one second and wondering where they could have gone.  As I was listening to her, I saw a Japanese airport security guard.  I ran over to him to explain what happened, and he pulled out his radio communicator and started calling for help.  Two other guards immediately came, and we all started looking for the little boy.  After what seemed like an hour but was probably about 15 minutes, he came running out from behind a wall and ran straight into his mother’s arms.  All of us clapped our hands and cheered, and we looked like the happiest bunch of people in the world.  The mother thanked all of us with hugs and tears.

I carried Matt back to the lounge and sat down next to Tom, who was still asleep, having no idea of the events that had just occurred.  As I settled Matt into a chair with his pillow and blanket for a sleep, and my adrenaline rush and heart rate started to quiet down, something amazing struck me. Throughout the entire time and interaction I spent talking to the woman and her son and the security guard, not once were we all speaking the same language.  In fact, we were speaking three separate languages. The woman was speaking an Indian dialect, I think Tamil; the security guard  was speaking Japanese and me, English.  Yet somehow we managed to communicate every single thing that needed to be said, and every single emotion that  needed to be felt, without a single understood word between us.  As I thought about my move to my new home in Kuala Lumpur, where I knew that many things would be so different and I would be in a country that I knew nothing about the culture and didn’t know one person other than my husband, I had a new level of faith that it would be ok.  We are so much more of the same than we are different.  And, it turned out to be not so hard at all.