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Having an exchange student from Taiwan live with us for the last five months has been good. I could gush and says it’s been fantastic but that would not be easy to read, so I’ll just say, it’s been good. It’s actually been great, but again, no gushing. For one thing, my daughter finally got a sister, so to hear the two of them laugh and giggle and generally love to be together is a delight every day. They walk in the door after school bursting with a kinship I only knew when I too, in high school, had an exchange student living in the room next to mine. But then I already had two sisters.

I have often worried that my children would grow up to be as lonely as I have been. And don’t get me wrong, I have love in my life and friends and truly rich experiences with others, today. For me though, underneath it all is a loneliness and a regret that goes way back. I wish for my remaining sister to be in my life because she of all people might understand the isolation we came from and help us both navigate the world that has always seemed so foreign. She ran away from it all years ago and is happy to separate herself from anything, including me, that reminds her of our past. Or so it seems.

Because we grew up in physical isolation, miles from others, and because our parents denied us the chance to explore our feelings every day, there’s no default understanding of life’s social experiences. So I have had to learn the rules one goofy mistake at a time. It would have been great to have had my sister with me in that.

That is probably why I am attracted to opportunities like the Rotary’s cultural exchange program that brings my daughter a willing and open sister from Taiwan. I have learned oh so well, that connections only happen when both parties are willing. You just cannot do it alone.