Until a few weeks ago, my mom had never considered home sharing on her trips. When she travels, she often finds herself squeezing into the living arrangements of her children—kids who have kids of their own—or else ponying up for a standard-issue hotel room in a city far from home.
But this time, I wanted my mom to enjoy my city as though it were her own, without having to compromise her comfort or connection with humanity while I was off making a living during the week. She’s not usually a fan of big cities, where it sometimes seems to her that people have forgotten how to care for each other. I hoped this trip would change her mind.
While she was planning the trip, I’d sent over a couple Airbnb listings for her to consider. The first was flashy but fully booked, and the second was smaller. But the second option proved ideal: a charming retreat nestled into a quiet street in Oakland, home to Bernee and Dado and their 4-year-old daughter Kezia.
When I first suggested the place, I reasoned that she’d have someone to talk to if she got lonely during the week. She responded that the last thing she wanted to do was intrude into someone else’s life—a classic concern of my mom, who’s always 100% committed to the wellbeing of others, even people she’s never met. But in this case her hosts were just like her: awash in compassion towards strangers.
Bernee and Dado’s Oakland home
Small miracles happen
My mom and Bernee became friends at once, and over the course of her stay they took every opportunity to have meals together, go on shopping excursions, and marvel at the small miracles only a fool would dismiss as coincidence—including the one that brought them together.
I could see a deep personal connection blossoming between the two women. The praise my mom lavished upon her hosts was nearly constant. Bernee returned her compliments. “She came in as a stranger,” Bernee said, “but before she left, she became the opposite”—a long-term friend.
My mom is right. This friendship does seem like a miracle in a time when human contact is often fleeting. We communicate, but over screens. We express our love, but via apps. Too often, busy lives and multiple appliances come between us.
But all that digital power only makes analog relationships more vital than ever. No matter how attractive a website photographer tries to make it look, a room to sleep in is just a room to sleep in. Bernee and Dado provided something else: a genuine welcome.
“When we decided to do Airbnb,” Bernee said, “it was not primarily a matter of finance, but so we could share our space to others who may need it. We wanted it to be a blessing to whoever stays here.”
My mom has celebrated many Mother’s Days, but this year she is celebrating with a new friend. I thought I was giving her an early Mother’s Day gift, but instead she gave one to me. My mom’s friendship with Bernee gives me hope that progress is coming full circle: that sharing brings trust, trust creates community, and community encourages sharing, in ever smaller, closer circles.
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