by Deniece , Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Homestay Participant in Spain

“When I heard the news, my heart fell on floor; I was on a plane on my way to Baltimore.  In these troubled times, it’s hard enough as it is; my soul has known a better life than this.” - There Is So Much More, Brett Dennen

When I was younger, likely during boarding school, I had gotten used to the expectation that I should be able to answer for an entire group of people.  Always being the minority, in some way, shape or form, in a group of people can do that to you.  Even though I’m still part of the “only ones” club in many settings, I’ve found, as I’ve gotten older, that people have started to use a little more common sense when asking about the actions of a few individuals with whom I may share a certain characteristic.  Generally, those questions have become fewer and far between.

That said, I would not necessarily expect to have to account for the actions of gun – toting Americans since I am not one, though I am an American, but that was indeed the position in which I found myself after hearing about the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, CT a week or so ago.  The family that has opened its home to me tried to understand how something like this could happen – again.  I believe the phrase was, “that seems to happen a lot in America; why is that?”  This was followed by, “we don’t have problems with guns here; maybe the laws should be changed…” Somewhere in the exchange, (mostly in Spanish and even as I plodded through my version of the language), was talk of the U.S. constitution, the gun lobby, political will, and news media.

To make a long short, I could not answer their ultimate question.  I did not have an answer.  But maybe the most important part of that particular conversation was the exchange itself.  What precipitated the dialogue was a serious and devastating event, yes, but the point of this whole experience is to share our cultures.  Whether it’s politics (always treading lightly, to be sure), food or sports, I’m here to learn and they’ve opened their home to a stranger so that they may learn.  So, while it’s only been a week, I think I may have at least one mission accomplished and that is to reinforce the idea that that the United States is actually not a place where gun – toting, violence – loving, child – hating, no political will – having, fear – mongering people are running around shooting up the place then Tweeting, Facebook posting and iReporting it to make sure it goes viral.

Yes, I think I got that one covered.