I was moved today. As I listened to the culminating words of several Chinese and Korean visiting scholars, I realized that there are many people in the community who deserve to know the role they play in the lives of our temporary residents.
I work at the Asian Affairs Center at MU, and we watch Asian visiting scholars come and go — on a regular basis. But before they leave, they prepare parting speeches for us. As a staff member, I'm used to the praise and thanks for helping them adjust and integrate into their life here in Columbia. But their words are often intended for others who will never hear them: city bus drivers, strangers on the street, store clerks, police officers, restaurant staff. These are just a few of the people that have left indelible marks in the memories of these scholars.
If you have ever been a visitor to a strange place or even a place that is just not as familiar to you, it's inevitable that you might lose your way, misunderstand what you should be doing or simply need a little guidance. Our scholars arrive here with language barriers and no sense of the community where they are living. They are bold and venture out to explore and learn. And if they encounter difficulty, it can be quite disconcerting. The tales they tell of the kindness of "strangers" are never ending. So this is a huge thank-you on behalf of all of our Asian visitors who will carry your assistance and kind words with them back to their countries as they tell their friends and family how amazingly warm and helpful Americans are. Thank you!
To learn more about the Asian Affairs Center at MU, e-mail the author at SappLJ@missouri.edu.