The Sculptor and his Wife

I met the most charming French couple the other day. Now Florence Sobra, our hostess, told me that typically the French are usually very private and leery of inviting complete strangers into their home, but this time this wasn't the case. And I must say it was a welcome reprieve.

Pierre and Yvonne Renard welcomed me into their humble abode. It was simple and yet very comfortable—pictures of family and friends, lots of big cushiony pillows and numerous sculptures.

Pierre, who is 88 years old, has been sculpting statues and figurines out of bronze, wood and clay for more than 25 years now.

And during that time, he told me, he has made about 300 sculptures.

Age is only a number to him. You would never guess that this bubbly, graying man sporting Crocs was in his 80s.

He gracefully ushered me around his house to see each of his sculptures.

"My sculptures are very simple, but there was one journalist who said that people in the public like to touch them because of form," he said, passion alive in his eyes.

Renard told me that Yvonne was one of his biggest supporters when he started sculpting.

The couple has been married for 56 years now, Yvonne told me with a smile. It was apparent to me from seeing them interact that they really enjoy each other's company. There's no nagging or prodding just conversation between two good friends and it's refreshing to see. I just kept thinking that I hope to share that same connection with my partner one day too.

The couple shared with me a couple of activities that they enjoy doing together, such as sailing, going on walks at night, going out to eat and sitting in their chairs and reading or having an aperitif.

And as they sat in their chairs that day, Pierre told me about how they like to look up at the sky through the sunroof.

"So while we are here we can watch the birds fly in the sky and the life is beautiful like that," he said.

Renard and Yvonne are also very active with the Lions Club International. I was excited when I heard this because I knew that I had found a connection between us. I receive a scholarship from the Lions Club every year to attend college.

It's amazing how much more you notice about people and their expressions when you can't understand the language. I saw their faces light up after my sentence had been translated for them.

Renard told me, via the interpreter, that he was honored to have met me.

"You are a person who knows what she wants and that is strong," he earnestly relayed.

And me, I was able to respond in a language he understood, "Merci beacoup."

It really warmed my heart to know that I was still able to connect with my subjects on a personal level despite the language barrier and that they felt compelled to tell me it was a pleasure to meet me.

The goodbyes came too soon. They both walked me to the door and gave me a hug and kisses before I left, not before taking down my address in the U.S. so that they could send me a New Year's card though.

It's just nice to know that some things in life really are universal, like kindness to strangers.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.