This month’s topic is one very dear to my heart—Home. Perhaps parts of my life story about Home will resonate with yours.
I was 7 years old in 1955, when I sat riveted in the movie theatre for my first viewing of the Technicolor version of the Wizard of Oz. The next year, safe and secure in my home, I snuggled in my jammies on the couch with my family, holding a wax paper bag of fragrant popcorn my Dad had just made for us. I was no less fascinated with the story--despite watching it on our home television set, in disappointing black and white.
My attachment to the notion of Home and my Home People were mirrored in Dorothy’s determined quest to return to her home in Kansas. Dorothy’s mantra, “There’s no place like home,” became mine as well. The movie’s songs, images, and emotions were the stuff of daydreams and nightmares well into my adulthood. No movie of my childhood affected me more than the Wizard of Oz.
Like many in the BabyBoom generation, my early home life reflected my parents’ American dream of upward mobility and my father's struggle to find career satisfaction. Multiple family moves to bigger, nicer homes and neighborhoods left me feeling insecure and quite anxious. I attended 5 schools before the seventh grade, each time called to be the “new girl.” I learned to invent clever ways to fit in at yet another new school, having to overcome the culture shock of the new environment in addition to needing to help my very shy younger sister adapt.
I learned how to listen to new speech patterns, accents and slang and how to figure out what NOT to wear—usually exactly what was in my closet; how to identify the mean kids and how to quickly convert them into allies. Yes, the pony outside the barn full of manure was that I acquired what my grandson Malcolm calls “friend’s power” and yes, I became a skilled friendly extrovert who never met a stranger. But lurking just below the surface was the Neter (energy) of the Lonely Outsider, insecure and skittish, one who never quite feels at home.
I am also one who carries the genetic memory of my Muskogee Creek ancestors’ experience on the Trail of Tears. This was the brutal forced march carried out from 1831 to 1850, courtesy of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, that drove the Five Civilized Tribes out of the Southeast U.S. so that white settlers could claim their lands. I used to feel ashamed and defensive at my anxiety about traveling, leaving my sweet home nest. I was and am quite regretful that I don’t share my husband’s sense of adventure. Witnessing my life journey and recovering this ancestral memory has helped me understand and be at peace with my authentic need to honor that part of my soul that is the “Homebody.” Bless you, world travelers and adventurers, and please allow me to be happy at Home!
Home by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
Click here to read the complete version of this magnificent poem: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/home-433/
I had intended to write a sentimental piece on Home. Then recent events forced me to confront my attachment to Home and recognize that hundreds of thousands of human beings in our world do not even have a Home to return to! So this month's blog has become an invitation to bear witness to all those Displaced Persons around the globe, here and now, as well as our known and unknown ancestors who were forced to flee the mouth of the shark. Let us open our hearts to their stories. Let us listen deeply to their stories and take the risk of having our lives changed in that listening. Let us bless these displaced persons, or whatever name of compassion you call them, in any way we are able. Here are a few stories from some friends:
My friend “B” immigrated to America from Eastern Europe 12 years ago with her abusive alcoholic husband and three daughters, not knowing any English. She said it was as if she were blind, deaf, and dumb. She was sexually assaulted by the immigration authorities during a so-called medical examination. She says she had no interest in the “American Dream.” She only wanted a better life for her girls whose future in the old country promised to be the same drudgery and servitude to men all women faced there. “B” says the first five years here were like she was imprisoned. The family lived in her mother in-law’s basement where they were allowed one shower a week and two hot cooked meals a week (too expensive, don't ya know). She had to drive her drunk spouse everywhere since he’d lost his license. He did all he could to sabotage her attempts to learn English. Though a degreed accountant in her home country, she worked cleaning houses, saving and borrowing money to learn English at an excruciatingly slow pace. Today through sheer determination, B is divorced, her daughters are well educated and in good jobs and happy relationships. She is building her own successful business that uses her excellent artistic talents and warm ways to attract clients. It's hard work but emotionally satisfying to be creating her own free life at long last.
My precious sister-friend "C" emigrated from Korea with advanced degrees in Nutrition. She worked 60 hours a week in a dry cleaner helping her husband finish seminary. Some of her customers treated her like she was their servant or worse, invisible. She learned English and raised her four stepsons to be fine men and excellent cooks. She is an amazing resourceful entrepreneur who has created several businesses. I have never met a kinder, gentler, more forgiving human being than "C." She embodies the message of the Christian gospel.
And then there’s my octogenarian friend “E” who, at the urging of her adult children (they wanted more security for their parents), recently relocated across the country, leaving the community they’d lived in for most of their married lives. After hearing how difficult the adjustment to the new community has been, another friend called her “a displaced person.” Soon after this stressful move, "E" and a daughter made a pilgrimage to Poland to visit the places her father’s family had lived. She shared what she'd seen and heard, stories of bone chilling Nazi era atrocities, tales of roads paved with headstones from Jewish graves, of how all the residents of her ancestors’ town were efficiently massacred and buried in the village cemetery. There were no surviving members from this branch of her family, an all too common story. "E" returned horrified, in shock, bereft, emptied, and wept for days and days.
"E", a displaced person, carries the memories of countless others who were lost, destroyed. How many of us are tempted to turn away from those who are carrying stories? How many of us will never hear the tales of people who've fled unspeakable conditions, or the stories of the human beings who did not escape the mouth of the shark?
And yet here we are today, listening to ignorant politicians and their ignorant followers around the world lose sight of their humanity. These are people who judge without mercy, people who call other human beings criminals or animals simply because they have fled with their children in desperation from chaos, famine, rape, war, seeking some semblance of safety and security.
What is your migrant/immigrant/refugee story? Who do you know who has fled the mouth of the shark? Have you had to?
CAN I PRAY FOR YOU?
Recently I was at the mall taking advantage of a big going out of business sale of a major department store. As I walked out to my car, a friendly woman joined me. We commiserated about how sorry we were this great store was closing. We got to my car, she smiled and said, “Can I pray for you? You know, God loves you.” Startled but thankful, I declined and asked if she had grandchildren. “Yes, five!” I suggested we both pause and pray for the thousands of children exactly like our grandchildren separated from their parents at the border. She glared at me and said, “No! Their parents did that to them.” I was stunned and before I could reply, she walked away.
Now, dear readers, I don’t have any brilliant solutions for the complex problems of borders or (the mostly baseless) fear of crime rising due to illegal immigration. I don't have any brilliant solutions for the complex problems of why people cannot live safely, freely, peacefully, healthfully in their own countries.
I do know we are all human beings. I do know we come from the same Source. I do know I have complete compassion for refugees fleeing the mouths of sharks. I do know it is my worst nightmare to imagine human beings having no safe homes.
I do know that I am meditating on how to keep my vow of ahimsa/non-violence and to be a fierce and vocal advocate for truth, lovingkindness, and unity. I do know I must take responsibility for my own thoughts, words and actions. I used to think that non-violence implied silence on my part. No more. I will speak from a kind and peaceful heart. And I do know I will speak my truth.
I do know that next time I will be prepared to call out such callousness disguised as religious righteousness. I do know I will be prepared to call out ill-informed citizens with closed hearts.
I do know I will speak--not to prove I am right and they are wrong. I will speak, for to remain silent is to betray those who have fled the mouths of sharks. If that is all I can do at this time in history, I will at least speak. In the meantime, this is my prayer:
So I invite you to join me in answering these questions and witnessing these images and poetry. I invite you to reflect on your own relationship to Home. I invite you to make a home in your heart for the Displaced Person within and for the Displaced Persons in our communities.
- What was Home like for you?
- Did you live in the same place?
- Go to the same schools with the same people?
- Did you move around a lot?
- Were you ever displaced?
- Were you the one who could not wait to leave Home?
- How do you think of Home now?
- When have you been displaced in your family or group or life circumstance?
- What helped you cope?
- Mr. Rogers advises us to look for the Helpers. Who were those Helpers in your life? (BTW, the documentary about Mr. Rogers, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a tonic in this toxic world right now!)
- How can we make a home for the displaced parts of our self?
- In your experience, is it true that, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again”?
- What if there is no Home to return to? Then what?
Coming Home (Council Suit)
I Am One Who knows there is no place like Home.
I am the Lost, Abandoned One
Yearning and seeking to be at Home again.
I Am One finding her way back Home.
At long last,
Joyfully unlocking the door to Home
With the Keys of Wisdom and Compassion
Amazed at how close by,
That Beautiful Place has been all along!
Keep on shining the Light in your own way, dear friends. May you be at peace and at Home in your hearts.
Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. I am trying to increase my readership so if you would be willing to share my blog with others, I would be so grateful.
May you walk in Beauty today and all the days of your life,