A Swedish Dilemma

Elizabeth - Hinsdale, Illinois
Entered on March 2, 2009

Life is a one big web of relationships. One person alone can be a friend, daughter, girlfriend, mentor, and teammate all at the same time. In order to maintain all of these connections, we have to make sacrifices. The biggest sacrifice of all is to be selfless. After all, no one wants a self-centered friend or mentor. That is why I believe that we should always put others before ourselves.

For a year I had been looking forward to my winter break vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It was about a month before break when my family got a call from our old au pair, Ulrika. She was from Sweden and had taken care of us for a whole year in 1991 as an 18 year old. Considering I had three very disruptive older brothers—she had given up much of her time and energy to help my parents raise us.

On the phone she informed my mom that she, her husband, and her two young sons were coming to Chicago and needed a place to stay. When my mom came in the room to tell the family the news, we knew from her face that it wasn’t good.

Our winter break would no longer consist of warm beaches and Mexican food; it would be spent attempting to translate and explain every word from “hello” to “tinsel” for these four Swedish-speaking people.

When they arrived, I had to make a decision. I could either dedicate my break to showing this family a great time, or I could spend the time off with my friends—forgetting that these innocent people were even there.

Unlike me, my brothers were old enough to have memories of Ulrika. Since they were trouble-makers, Ulrika was constantly enforcing rules and ending “the fun.” As a result, they didn’t set a good example for me. They said, “We’re out of here,” and left the entertaining to my parents.

After seeing my parents’ altruism, I decided to put both my friends and the thoughts of palm trees in the back of my head—I said to them, “How about we go bowling” and gestured rolling a bowling ball. Seeing the faces of the boys light up as I taught them English words was so rewarding. Although I could have been basking in 80 degree weather while indulging myself with guacamole and enchiladas, I realized that seeing others happy was more important.

I devoted the rest of my week to them. Not only did they have a great American vacation, but my parents were grateful to have some extra hands to help out. “Tack själv,” (thank you) the children said to me as they left. Although I could have gotten a great tan in Cabo, it would have faded. The fulfillment of putting both Ulrika’s family and my parents before myself would last a lifetime.

Now I can confidently say that I’ve maintained the web of relationships in my life and have even expanded it.