There was something different about him. Not his appearance - foreign students aren't uncommon in our Kentucky college town. But something drew me to him. He looked so unhappy.
His bike had a flat tire, and he came into our hardware store to buy a new inner tube. As he dug around in his pockets for change, I offered to help with the repair.
He asked to borrow a few tools and was soon out on the sidewalk, struggling to loosen the rear wheel. I watched him wrestle with the bike for a few minutes and then went out to ask where he was from. Soon we were both working on the repair, and he began to talk.
He told me how much he missed his home. He was from Thailand, and he longed for the hills and the colors and smells of the trees and flowers - so unlike the foliage in this part of the US. The food here was also so different and unfamiliar, he said. He wished he could see his family and friends again soon.
I could sense how homesick he was feeling, and as he talked I started to pray silently for some comforting words to share with him.
The Lord's Prayer - the prayer Jesus taught his disciples - came to mind, and I remembered that it starts with the words "Our Father." To me that meant both of us had the same divine Parent, the same Father-Mother, God.
Then I recalled part of a sentence from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy that says, "...one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love" (page 577). It seemed to me that we could all feel at home with "Our Father" and "His universal family," because we are all members of that family. In fact, our universal family can be found wherever we go.
Not only that, but the Bible describes God as Love, and since God is ever-present Love, my new friend could never be alone or isolated. "Our Father" was right there with him, and His universal family was with him, so this young man was at home in God's love.
I asked him if he had ever heard the saying "Home is where the heart is." As he shook his head, I could tell he was thinking about what that meant. I told him that to me it meant that everything we loved about home was always with us in our hearts. That we could be home in our thoughts any time we wanted to, because we could remember all the things we loved about home. Then we could see those things repeated in the new places we visited and the new people we met.
As he listened, I told him it was the spiritual qualities of home that made it so special. That was why sometimes we could catch a smell or a glimpse of something right here that would remind us of home. And since God was everywhere, we could never be separated from our Father-Mother's love. Home is with us wherever we are.
His brilliant smile at that moment let me know he was thinking about that idea. "This is a beautiful place," he said. "My home is beautiful, too. You would love it!" And my reply, that perhaps someday I would visit his country, inspired an even broader and amazingly beautiful smile.
We finished tightening the rear wheel, and he handed me the tools. Swinging onto his bike, he pedaled off, smiling and waving. I was sure we had made a connection.
Although that was years ago, I still occasionally think of my friend from Thailand. I know that wherever he is, his sense of home is with him, because where "Our Father" is, there is home.
have I desired of the Lord,
that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house
of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.