If there exists a universal language in the world today I would have to identify it as hard work. Work, the sort that raises a sweat and truly accomplishes something physical brings with it a unique fellowship as shoulder to shoulder you cut the wood, clear the field, plow the land, or clean the house. It is a language that many older people feel is being dropped from the "life curriculum" of the next generation in the face of government regulations, a fast paced society, and increasingly tired parents.
Work, however, is a language spoken fluently by the young ambassadors of Station Maine. It is a fluency developed by long hours of practical "study" as "Rent-a-Rowers" over the course of the year in which they earned every penny of this summer's trip to France. There, armed with this universal language, they found friends and memories far more profound than those who scale the Eiffel Tower, view the Arc de Triumph, and tell you they've seen France.
Of course it wasn't all about work. As guests of the Defi du Trait we were given opportunities few Americans enjoy. Inside tours of the Salt Marshes, poling flat bottomed boats through the peat bogs, and open sailing in little boats not yet on the market were among the attractions, along with a ropes course that tested the strongest of us. In between stacking wood and scrubbing boats we were treated to dinners in the homes of our new friends where simple play, tag, wrestling, and silliness defied the need for any language at all.
The two week visit culminated in a marritime festival/contest. We mixed in with our French hosts in the search for the pirate's treasure and the identity of the spy who left the many clues tied to orange buoys. That evening in the festival tent the young ambassadors from Maine joined fearlessly in the ancient tradition of music that still remains a vital part of the sailing tradition in Brittany.
No youth program can exist without the help of its community. Station Maine again sends thanks to the many parents, donors and supporters who hired our young Rent-a-Rowers and helped us learn the universal language of work. It is a language which we will carry for the rest of our lives, tucked deeply among joyous memories of France. Merci.