Home. It’s an interesting concept, one that a lot of people have trouble pointing a finger to what exactly it is. Some people equate it with their house, others with the town where they grew up (or at least where they’ve spent a significant portion of their life), and still others with something more general, like a region or a country.
Growing up as a United Methodist clergy kid, I didn’t really have a firm sense of home. We moved when I was 2, 6, 13, and 17, and then I moved to Chicago for school a few months after the final move. So it was kind of hard for me to peg down where or what home was, when people asked during college. These questions were more frequent my junior year of college, when the overarching theme of the Service Immersion program at DePaul became “Bring Change Back Home”. We had lots of discussions (particularly with other trip leaders) about what home IS. I was relieved to know that there were others besides me who had questions about what they wanted to call home.
One wise and wonderful friend said that home, for her, is like a turtle’s shell. She carries it with her. Now, of course, this could easily lead into a bunch of cliches about how “home is where the heart is” and so forth, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll talk a little bit about my experience of home, complicated though it is.
The first place I really remember feeling at home was Rochester, IL. For those of you who don’t know, that was the town where we lived from when I was 6 until I was 13 (almost 14). Since we lived there for 7.5 years, I was really able to find my niche….in the church community, in the school, etc. Sure, I had some problems (particularly with teasing for being a year younger than most of the kids in my grade), but on the whole I felt at home there. I had friends, I enjoyed my school, I enjoyed my extracurriculars. But then we moved, and I thought that it had toppled my world…but as it turns out, it toppled it for the better.
We moved to East Moline, IL, where thanks to a phenomenal youth group that took me in right away, I was able to find home almost immediately, as much as I wanted to pretend the world was over because of the move. While living there, I found my voice; I found my niche; I became even more comfortable living in my own skin; I became more who I was called to be; I was home. And then, a month after I graduated high school, we moved again.
This time we moved to Tuscola, IL. I’ve had a hard time calling it any more than “my family’s home” for the past four years, since I never really lived there long-term. But that seemed okay to me. Maybe I was supposed to be more of a nomad, a wanderer, without a fixed place to call home. Then I moved to Chicago and my perspective changed. I finally found the deepest sense of my self that I had ever felt. Among my activist friends at DePaul, I was home. Among my Service Immersion “family”, I was home. Among my University Ministry and Interfaith “family”, I was home. Among my Holy Covenant UMC “family”, I was home. I would go back to “my family’s home” (i.e. Tuscola) every once in a while, but no matter how many times I went there, nothing beat the excitement for me of being on a Megabus and reaching the end of I-57 at which point I could see the end of the Red Line, the beginning of the Dan Ryan, and have a solid glimpse of the skyline…I always knew I was home when I saw that.
Over the summer after my graduation, I had an interesting and new (mobile) experience of home. I was in between three homes (Chicago, Tuscola, and Bogota), somewhat detatched from each of the three, but yet with strong attachments (past, present, or future) to each. So I found home in different ways. Home was getting to spend my last week of camp with the Marked campers. Home was meeting up with a friend in Seattle, WA while my family was on vacation there. Home was being able to spend time with friends who I hadn’t seen in a while while on my road trip with my best friend. Home was spending three weeks with the other Young Adult Missionaries at training. Home was enjoying my remaining time with my family. Home was going to Sing A New Song for a last hoo-rah with the Reconciling and MFSA crowd. Home was the friends who hosted me in Chicago, living out of a suitcase, the goodbyes (or preferably see-you-soons), the tears, the laughter, the love, the heartache, and much more. Home was with me. I was home.
I’ve been in Colombia for right about a month and a half now. I felt pretty comfortable after a couple of weeks, settling into my routine, knowing the norms of my life here, building relationship and camaraderie with coworkers, churchgoers, and others. But I wasn’t yet sure if I had found that sense of home. This past weekend I went on a work trip to the department of Boyaca. The trip was lovely; we had a good time and the work was good, and Boyaca is a beautiful department. Coming back to Bogota, we came to the sign that said “Welcome to Bogota”, and I thought “oh, thank goodness, I’m almost home.” And then it hit me…Bogota is becoming another home for me.
So what is home for me? Home is something I carry with me; home is where I know I’m safe; home is where I know I’m loved; home is…well, here…and now.