Living in Waldo County has its benefits and like anywhere else in the world, its drawbacks.

I was reminded of one such drawback over the past weekend, while I was having a few friends and relatives over for an end-of-the fall gathering around the front yard fire pit.

I had a pretty good idea of who was going to come by, having invited my sister Jess, her husband Justin and their three children, as well as Mark, who quickly earned the nickname of "The Fire Keeper" before the end of the night. My son Shane was quite excited to see his cousins arrive, having literally counted the minutes until their scheduled arrival (like, all day long).

A little bit before the gathering was to begin, I got a text from my sister asking me if I would mind hosting one additional guest, a family friend of theirs named Sam who came to live in Maine from his native Kenya. Seeing how I have always had a "the-more-the-merrier" mentality, and thought it might be cool for Shane to meet someone from a place that is so different than the home he knows, I said I was more than happy to welcome another guest.

When all arrived, we all did our brief introductions around the fire, and then Sam had to excuse himself briefly to take a phone call.

Afterward, Shane went inside the house with his cousins to find Nerf guns and other cool outdoor things and when he emerged from the house again, he started looking around the area of the campfire as if he was in search of something.

"What's up, Buddy?" I asked as he walked past me.

"Hey mom, where's that big tall black guy? I want to ask him about where he came from," he said.

On the inside, I completely freaked out about that comment. But then, I took a couple of seconds to really think about what he said and how he said it. As a friend of mine pointed out, Shane's comment was not, after all, coming from a place of racial insensitivity, but rather he was trying to describe the physical attributes of a person he had just met and was trying to find — after all, I wouldn't have freaked out so much if Shane had said, for example, "Where's that really tall guy with red hair?"

That was when I was reminded, through Shane's comment, that one bummer about living in mid-coast Maine your entire life is being exposed to less cultural and racial diversity than there may be in other regions of our country.

That means I myself have had fewer opportunities to be a part of conversations involving the issue of race, meaning I felt as though I didn't have the exact tools I needed to address what my son had just said.

So I did what any well-meaning parent would do — I winged it.

"OK Shane, the man you're looking for? His name is Sam. When he gets off the phone, you can go over and say hi and ask him all about where he grew up. I'm sure he'll be happy to tell you all about it," I said.

Then he somehow questioned why it was wrong to address a person in the way that he did, and for lack of a better explanation, I again did what any well-meaning parent would do when faced with a tough topic — I panicked.

"Well, you might not like it if someone was looking for you and said, 'Hey, where did that skinny pasty kid go?'" I said, a comment that immediately drew good-natured criticisms from those who had the privilege of overhearing my lack-luster explanation.

Yes, I know, I ran out of bullets and threw the gun on that one. But despite my inability to meaningfully express my thoughts, Shane did just fine.

That kid just strolled up to Sam, extended his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Shane. I would like to hear all about where you come from, and how you decided to come to America."

From there Shane, Sam and all the kids were fast friends. We listened to Sam talk about what life is like in Kenya, and how instead of deer and moose, lions are the animals who wander the land. We heard a few stories, and learned how to say some words in Swahili.

By the end of the night, everyone was having a great time, and when Sam had to go home, he shook Shane's hand and called him his "brother from another mother." Shane got a big kick out of it, and told Sam he could come to our bonfire any time.

So what started as a situation that was awkward and hard to explain for me as a parent turned out to be a wonderful experience for all of us. I learned a little something about the importance of keeping these conversations alive with my son, so it won't be so hard for me to address when and if it comes up again. Shane learned all about a place he'd only seen on TV, in movies or read about in books, and now we all have a new friend from the other side of the world.

Overall, I would say it all made for a pretty great Saturday night in Waldo County.