I began this weekend by attending a large music festival. I brought one of my most extroverted friends with me – Heather. All day long, we never met a stranger. Everyone we encountered became our new best friend. From the guy who watched our backpacks whilst we went and got food, to the girls who saved our spots right by the front fence, everyone we met became a friend and an accomplice. As much as I seem like an extrovert, there is a deep part of me that is an introvert. I like having an icebreaker with me, and my friend Heather is an icebreaker expert. She is bolder than me and not afraid to ask people for random favors or if we can participate in things. I have several friends like that. I may not be an icebreaker, but once I have an introduction, I love connecting with people. It is part of what makes me tick; connecting with people is one of my favorite parts of life.
When meeting people, there is one question that they always seem to ask. It is an easy question for most people, some would even call it a ‘no-brainer,’ but I will admit it often stumps me and causes me to pause before I answer. The question is simple enough: “Where are you from?” That question, for me, has many answers and even more implications. I have lived in Orange County, California for almost 11 years. Before that I lived in North Carolina for 3 years; before that I lived in Mississippi for 8 years; before that I lived in Northern Ontario for 11 years; and my first two years of life were spent in Newfoundland. I find myself answering in different ways depending on who is asking the question. This weekend at the country music festival, explaining that I was an Orange County Canadian Southerner got a lot of strange looks. One girl asked me, “So which one do you call home?” That caused me to pause and think and have a bit of an existential crises. Where is my home?
When I reflect on my life, I really feel like I have no centering home in a physical place. I usually feel like a bit of a stranger or an outsider no matter where I am. I have always envied people who feel rooted to a place. As someone who has felt like a nomad, it seems a romantic notion to have all your family in one place and to watch an area change over the years. This has probably been exacerbated and encouraged by reading Wendell Berry. Berry is a wonderful theologian and writer who often writes about community rootedness, and I have fallen in love with the notion. Yet I can’t seem to find the place where I am meant to be rooted. I almost feel homesick for a place I have never been.
I remember sharing this thought with my best girl friend Carla. She is a wise one (and also my editor) and shared a wonderful insight. Carla looked at me, and in her usual understated way said, “It makes sense you don’t feel at home anywhere. Neither did Jesus. And maybe we are supposed to feel a little uneasy.” She and I talked about the idea of the Kingdom of God and how Jesus shared that there was nowhere for him to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). Jesus felt and lived like a nomad. There are many places that I love and that I would say are part of me. Perhaps it is a gift to have not just one home, but many.
I think more than a place, what makes me feel at home are people. Whenever I am going through something difficult or new, I find myself needing to connect with certain people. It is as if I don’t feel like myself unless I have touched base with these people. Recently, I had one of those days where everything in my life seemed to be in transition and I didn’t feel like myself; everything felt foreign and unfamiliar. I called a friend and asked him to come over and just sit with me and watch a tv show. That was it. I just wanted him to be around, because for some reason he feels like home and reminds me of who I am. In the same way, sometimes I just need to hear my parents’ voices; they are my home. I think that is the answer I will give from now on. Instead of listing a place, I will list the people that make up my home. What about you – where is home? Or maybe a better question is: who is your home?