A Story of Welcome and Friendship
I want to take you back to a moment that made a difference. A young German man, bewildered and barely an hour ashore from his steamship, approached the International House reception desk to check in. A fellow resident noticed the newcomer and, without hesitation and with disarming kindness, he brought him into the community.
He saw me struggling at the desk to say who I was and he came up to me. “Let me help you,” he said. “I heard you speaking and I’m from Germany myself. I’m Wolfgang Saxon … ”
-Wolf Dettbarn, in his memoir, From School to War, Growing Up in Hitler’s Germany (2017)
As I read his account, I could instantly recognize an interaction that has taken place at International House, in various forms, thousands of times. Can you recognize it too?
Perhaps your version had a language barrier to overcome, or took place in the elevator, at the Pub, in the 5th Floor Lounge, or perhaps you got off an airplane, or an uptown train. Perhaps that person was Swiss, or from Texas or South Africa, but I’m sure you can think of a person and a moment where you found friendship and support at International House—a moment when someone created a bridge and invited you to be together instead of alone, and it changed everything.
This happened at International House yesterday. It will happen here again tomorrow. All these connections happen because of you and your gift to International House. If you found welcome here, I hope you will make a contribution today.
A genuine connection is what our founder, Harry Edmonds, saw was needed when he greeted a lonely Chinese student over a century ago. His action set in motion a legacy that International House has safeguarded and passed along, like the light of candles at Sunday Supper, for nearly a century. A series of such welcoming gestures eventually draws even the most introverted new member into spirited conversations about the challenges of our world and our collective future, where residents are invited to share their valued perspectives in an open dialogue.
I ask that you make a gift to International House so that this place can continue to draw in bright and hopeful young people and greet them with a diverse and welcoming community.
Stories about arrivals at International House are my favorite to hear. No matter when you came, or where you came from, your description of the West Side skyline, the Hudson River unfolding, and the emergence of International House from Sakura Park is retold with great detail. These moments vibrate with emotions; the anticipation, expectations, and the unknown seem to heighten the senses, and memories are vivid.
Even if the months that follow your arrival are a blur of friendships and discovery, and what you recall is the general excitement of encountering new cultures and the vibrancy of life at International House, you remember your arrival, and those initial gestures of connection. You know now that they represent the beginning of a very special time.
Residents arrived at International House this year just as always, just as charged with hope and excitement, but with greater concerns about isolation than ever before. With your gift, you can show them they are not alone.
We have all understood loneliness in a new way this year, felt it deeply, and recognized the valuable interactions we have been missing out on. International House has found safe and socially distant ways to foster connection—and, though our numbers are smaller, this community is as diverse as ever. You would be proud to see how this group is embracing the spirit of International House and leaning on each other to navigate this difficult time.
I hope you will honor their commitment to the legacy of our global community and support these resident members as they find a way to connect, learn and grow together. A gift in support of International House shows your support of their journey. I am asking you to make a gift as generous as you can, so that International House can foster an inclusive global community. Together we can make sure our new arrivals see that they have come to the right place.
With sincere thanks,
Katherine O. Miller
Office of Development & Alumni Relations
P.S. I would be so glad to help you say thank you to the person who made you feel most welcome at I-House. Share your story with me at email@example.com.