It’s that time of year again; the kids are off to school. This year we sent our youngest, Anna, off to college. I wasn’t nearly as worried this time as I had been when Emily, my first born, left for school. I learned a lot with Emily’s transition to college. I learned that they will look for ways to connect with people just like they did here: through school, church and sports. I learned that they are perfectly capable of making good decisions and bearing the consequences of poor decisions. Most of all, I learned that I am only a phone call away or worst case, a couple hour car ride away. So, I wasn’t surprised that my level of concern was low around Anna’s transition. Don’t be fooled though, it was definitely there, it was just mitigated by the lessons of sending off the first one.

All that said, this year was still hard. This year Emily will be studying abroad in Spainfor four months! The comfort of the phone call or the car ride is not going to be there. What is more concerning to me than that though is the issue of finding friends. I know in my heart she will do just fine. It’s not like she’s going to a state college where students from her high school, church and sports leagues will be attending. I worried that there won’t be any pre-existing connections to ease the transition.

Tuesday, as I drove up to Shenandoah for Anna’s Convocation Ceremony, I wondered will Emily be warmly welcomed. What kind of divide will the cultural difference create? Who will be her friend? After the ceremony I searched for Anna. We were planning to have dinner with the rest of the incoming freshman and their parents. I found her with two students from the U.K. They had met the night before at a dinner and Anna had invited them to join us for dinner. As we walked to dinner we passed through the student center. Anna stopped to talk to four students lounging on the couches. I quickly realized that they were French students and I listened as she invited them to join us for dinner as well (they declined; 6:00 was too early for dinner). That’s when the thought occurred to me; there will be someone like Anna in Seville who will welcome and include Emily.

As we shared a meal, the three American students and two students from the U.K. compared notes on holidays and foods. They talked about some of the dos and don’ts of American culture. The cultural divide was closing as they laughed and found the things they have in common. Another thought occurred to me; Emily will have a similar experience in Spain.

The world is a big scary place for parents who have to send their kids out into it, but with ears to hear and eyes to see we discover that God frequently whispers to us gentle assurances. If you are sending someone off to Kindergarten for the first time, off to college the first time, or just “off” listen for the whispers, watch for the lessons. There you will find the blessing.

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