Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.”

The way I have come to see human beings as the same is not in one event, but in a series of small gestures.

It is in the way people interact with me as if I understand everything: whether at my ministry sites, in local markets, or our weekly prayer group. It is in the way locals share that everyone has bichos (bugs) in their stomachs when they learn that I have had amoebas three times. It is even in the way the trufi driver yells at me to close the door more slowly, the same as he would with any other passenger.

My host mother with her granddaughter and great grandson

My host mother with her granddaughter and great grandson

It is in the way the children in Chilimarca fiercely hug me on their last day of the semester. I have gotten to know each of their funny little quirks and emotional triggers, and most importantly how each one expresses love in uniquely beautiful ways.

It is in the way the teacher whose classroom I share in Comunidad Educativa Para La Vida (CEV) in Chilimarca comforts me when she is going through a difficult time. Even if it is not exactly what I would like to say, I am also blessed to be able to find significantly meaningful words, and to offer encouragement at just the right time.

It is in the smile of a child; in a trufi next to a mother whose child is wrapped in a blanket, from children who are earning their living on the streets, in schools with Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza (CUBE) or CEV, or in my graciously sized immediate and extended host family.

It is in the request for directions from an adult. Quechua is her first language, but we are able to find common ground in Spanish with surprising ease.

Typical Cochabamba street with mountain view

Typical Cochabamba street with mountain view

It is in a friendly conversation shared on a microbus. A mother and daughter start a conversation with me, sparked by admiration for my traditional Bolivian bag made by a young girl at my ministry site. It moves to our shared love of music and how we have all been in various musical ensembles, and at the end they promise to visit me at CUBE.

It is in the way Maryknoll lay missioners open up their homes to me, to cook food or to stay the night.   It is in the way my host family allows me to help clear the table, and invites me to stay in their house, even if they won’t be there.

In these gestures, I realize I have a home, whether it is where my bed is or where I am enjoying meaningful company. It comforts me to know that I have support near and far, as I am blessed with loved ones who offer the same warmth of hospitality.

It is in shared tears, warm embraces, laughter, and prayer that are all universal languages. Living in a foreign culture and country, I know that I am different, but I am realizing this less and less. Instead, I am being reminded in countless little ways how we are all the same.

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