Mario Villalobos

Saying Yes to Things

A few weeks ago, my friend Ginger asked me if I would help her out with something. She was applying to the Northwest Student Exchange, a non-profit student exchange program based in Seattle, WA. Next year, she was hoping to host a teenager from Germany, and while she was filling out her application, she asked me if I would like to be the girl’s academic coordinator. Without really thinking about it, I said sure. “What do I have to do?” I asked. “I’m not sure,” she said. “Okay.”

She put my name and email down, and not long after, I received an email from the NWSE asking me if I would like to apply. I emailed back and said sure. The NWSE representative then sent me the application, I filled it out, and I setup a phone interview for the following week. When the interview came, I talked to the representative and answered questions for about an hour. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the more she told me about the program and the role I played, the more I started to get excited about it. According to their website, “NWSE Area Coordinators love working with youth, believe in the value of international understanding and friendship, enjoy reaching out to others, and are often well connected in their communities.”

Maybe it was the coronavirus or maybe I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe I’m thinking more about my legacy, but working with kids and being around kids has really made me happy lately. Just this morning, my good friend Maddie, a first grader, ran up to me and gave me a hug. Kids around her started saying, “Hi Super Mario!” and I said hi back and joked around with them and made them laugh, and their laughter is just so infectious. Yesterday a young kindergartener showed me a small strand of pink yarn and she said she stole it from a leprechaun. I laughed and said, “I never met a leprechaun hunter before,” and she smiled demurely before running away and rejoining her friends.

The student from Germany will be 16 years old when she flies into Montana later this year. In her application she wrote that one of the reasons why she wanted to come to America was because she wanted to get out of her comfort zone and learn new things. I can relate 100%. I’m eager to meet her and learn from her and teach her and make sure her stay in America can be as good as it can be. If I had said no to this opportunity, if I had said no to Ginger, what would that have meant for me? That I’m a coward? That I’m comfortable with complacency and mediocrity? I don’t want to live like that.

So I’m glad I said yes to this. I’m scared but also excited. Isn’t that one of the best things about life? That feeling of possibility?