When I think about home, I think of more than just a place. I think of love, comfort, peace, and security. A place where I can be free to be me without being judged by anyone. A place that welcomes my silliness and laughs with me, not at me. A place that cries when I cry, but doesn’t let me stay there too long. A place that doesn’t mind when I’m a little bit weary and gives me some time to rest. When I first started writing this piece, I had every intention of using these words to describe the house in which I live. But in the midst of this journey, I’ve made a new discovery!
For most of my life, I’ve had to do quite a bit of traveling. Whether I was competing as an athlete, working in television, or speaking at various events, each hotel room in which I stayed has served as a temporary home for me. Many times, I enter these beautiful rooms and find a basket full of goodies or fragrant flowers there to welcome me. In one room, there was even a personal welcome note that was typed into the flat screen TV, surrounded by nature scenes and tranquil spa music playing in the background. These things are done in an effort to make me feel at home. And, in a way, they do. I always feel special and cared for when these types of surprises accompany my arrival.
However, no matter how elaborate the gifts or the room, every time I close the hotel door behind me, I feel a sense of sadness because I miss my real home. I’ve been a homebody ever since I was little. I never liked going to school because I preferred to stay at home. Not that there was anything special or spectacular about being home, it’s just where I felt the most comfortable. And even though things weren’t perfect there, and were actually very difficult at times, I knew what to expect. There were no new people to meet or personalities to navigate.
The more I have traveled in my adult life, the more I’ve come to realize how strong the pull of “home” affects me. At first, I thought I was just missing being within those walls that housed my belongings and the comforts I’ve come to know so well. But now I realize that every time I have the opportunity to travel with my family, no matter how far we go or how long we stay, that sense of sadness is nowhere to be found. So, what I am missing is not home in terms of a building or structure and familiar possessions, but home in terms of my relationships with those I love. I miss my family and the love, comfort, and security being around them offers me.
As a result of this new discovery, I’ve come to the conclusion that home is not in a place. Home is in relationships. For me, it is in relationship with my God, my family, and my friends. It’s not stationary. It’s portable and can go wherever I go. As I watch the news and see heartbreaking stories about people whose physical dwellings have been destroyed by fire, tornadoes and other disasters, I remind myself to hold on to my own dwelling and material possessions loosely. As much as I love where I live, I want to keep things in perspective and be thankful for the fact that home is much more than a place, has much stronger ties than an address, and far deeper access to the soul than any key.
Home is in the relationships that allow me, and encourage me, to be me.
Photo (Flickr CC) by linda yvonne