Sharon Holcomb & Fred Farnell, 1995

People can be very different from you and still be good people. That lesson, learned as a foreign exchange student, has shaped my life. And was my German family different! The parents were a generation younger than mine. Instead of two quiet older brothers I suddenly had three, and later four, very lively younger siblings. The child from a factory worker’s family found herself part of a dentist’s family. Generous host parents, Udo and Gudrun Eggert invited me for a few weeks in the summer of 1972, kept me for more than a year, and made me part of their family forever. 

Of course, many things have shaped my life, starting with loving parents, Olive and Dorman Holcomb. They made sure my brothers and I went to school, went to church, and were taken on many camping trips.  “We’re not lost, we’re exploring,” became a family motto. Living in Germany with its great public transportation, I learned to go exploring without adults. My friend Eva and I ventured to  Berlin on our own. Marriage to Fred Farnell and the opportunity to live with him in Texas, California, Ohio, and Japan as an Air Force spouse, has also given us lots of opportunity for “exploring.”  

I’m a firm believer in public schools and a firm believer in travel. I was fortunate to attend excellent public schools in Vancouver, Washington and Germany. A “field trip” with my new classmates from the Theodore Mommsen Schule In Bad Oldesloe  meant several days in Paris. Later I taught in excellent public schools in Nishihara, Okinawa, Japan as well as in San Antonio, Texas. Every child deserves a solid education enriched by positive experiences.  

We’re also shaped by the children in our lives. For me they include big brothers, Dorman and Ward Holcomb and the little German children who became my brothers and sister, Arne, Ariane, Ole and Phil Eggert. Most of all, Fred and I have been blessed by our own children, Matthew, Patrick, and Ariane Farnell. 

As Fred and I tried to decide what legacy we want to leave behind, giving young people the opportunity for foreign travel and study seems fundamental. The lesson that people can be very different from you and still be good people, is one that can shape lives and help bring peace to our world. Our wish is that this gift does just that for years to come.