English Short Story


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  • Hi. My name is Damien Gifford. I was 11 years old when I first went to Europe with my grandparents. I was changing schools in the fall, I wasn’t open to new experiences, and I hated trying anything outside of my comfort zone. I knew what I liked and didn’t want to do or try anything else.
  • Suddenly I couldn’t find any food I liked (except for the Italian restaurant down the street from the hotel that served very good nachos.) I had to walk everywhere or I had to learn to take public transportation, two things I never did back home.
  • I met family I didn’t know I had. I also spent a lot of time with religion professors from all over the world who lived differently than I did. They had different backgrounds but I shared a common faith with them. I found that they talked with me and accepted me even though I was only a kid.
  • I also saw the Anne Frank house and it scared me to think some kid actually had to live like this just to end up dying.
  • Next we went to Paris.
  • I was awed by the Louvre, where I saw Hammurabi's Code, Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Egyptian exhibit. It triggered in me a love of history that I still have. Paris also showed my how young our country is and how old civilization is.
  • Next we went to Belgium, where we stayed in an antique hotel, across the street from a church where Father Damien, a Catholic saint, was buried. In Leuven, everyone knew the name Damien, although they pronounced it differently.
  • My grandparents had a friend who had an 11 year old son. I spent the day with him, playing video games and going to a playground with a bunch of his friends, none of whom spoke English. Even though we couldn’t actually understand each other we had a good time and played a lot of the same games as I played at home.
  • When I came home I was more self-confident, I was more open to new ideas and situations, and I appreciated what I had. The experience made me see a bigger world outside of myself. And I realized that there were lots of people who believed in God differently than I did but they, too, were Christians. My world got bigger, my life got bigger, and my God got bigger.

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