My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Sweden, where we had a reunion with friends with whom I worked at Kibbutz Ein Gev in Israel during the winter of 1979-80. A group of us have worked very hard over these past nearly 4 decades to stay in touch and maintain our friendships. We last gathered in France 3 years ago, and in England 2 years before that. Each reunion has been special, but this one touched me due to the incredible generosity of our Swedish hosts.
We travelled to Stockholm first and met friends from England and France, as our Swedish host was out of town when we first arrived. It was great to see Alistair and Debbie Schofield and Jeanmarie Daburon, whom we had seen at our last 2 reunions. It was especially exciting to see Laura McFarlane, from London, whom we had not seen since we spent a summer working in England in 1984. Here we are enjoying a boat ride in the Stockholm archipelago.
On Sunday, Laura needed to return to London. When we parted, I gave her a hug and told her that we were too old to let another 34 years go by before we got together again. She agreed, and I look forward to seeing her again in the next few years.
By then, our host from Stockholm, Lena Margulis, had returned home and was ready to host us. Since she could not get all our luggage and all 5 of us in her car, she arrived at our hotel to pick up our luggage when we needed to check out, and returned to Stockholm later that afternoon after we had done some sightseeing to pick us up and bring her to her home in a residential area about a half an hour drive from downtown. She spent the day getting the house ready for us and we felt welcomed into her home immediately. What struck me most was that I had not seen Lena since I left the kibbutz nearly 40 years ago, and she had never met my wife, so the generosity she showed in allowing us to invade her home was truly touching. The following day, another friend, Hans Jörgensen, from northern Sweden, who hosted us later in the trip, travelled to Stockholm to join the reunion there, and even though Lena had never met him, she hosted him as well.
Since we had already seen old Stockholm, Lena arranged other excursions for us, including a boat trip to the island of Utö, where we rented bikes and some of us dipped into the chilly Baltic Sea. After the 25 km bike ride, we enjoyed lunch together before returning on the boat.
We watched a lot of the World Cup together and cheered as Sweden made it to the final 8, England to the final 4, and France to the finals, but then it was time for Hans to return to his hometown of Umeå, so he flew home to get his house ready for 5 guests, and Sheryl, Debbie, Alistair, Jeanmarie and I took a 6 1/2 hour train ride to meet him later that day.
Hans worked on the kibbutz in 1984, so I did not meet him there. But, Jeanmarie returned to the kibbutz that year and invited Hans to join our reunion 3 years ago in France. Even though we had just met him 3 years ago, he invited us to have our next reunion in Sweden, and offered to host us. Since his wife, Monica was not at our reunion in France, she had never met us. Nevertheless, like Lena, they opened up their home to us and showed us all around Umeå and even took us to their farmhouse outside of town in Laxbacken, where Monica’s grandfather grew up with his 8 siblings. We truly enjoyed the beautiful scenery, picked wild blueberries and Monica prepared lunch for us.
I was fortunate to celebrate my birthday with these wonderful and generous friends, who serenaded me with a round of “Happy birthday” while we ate breakfast in Hans and Monica’s kitchen. For lunch, Hans then took us to a fish restaurant by the Baltic sea.
As we awaited our flight home from Stockholm, I wrote Lena and Hans a thank you note to thank them for their generosity. I told them that, “it fills my heart that I have friends like you that I don’t see very often but welcome me and Sheryl like we are your family.” As truly generous people do, they thanked us for being such wonderful friends and let us know that they truly loved having us in their homes. We all look forward to our next gathering, whenever and wherever that may be. In the meantime, I will treasure the fact that I have truly generous friends thousands of miles away who are committed to maintaining life long friendships. In a world that increasingly feels less generous, it is critically important that we celebrate real generosity.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.