“if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
“Home” comes from Old English “ham” which signifies a dwelling place, an estate, a village or even a region or country. Going back further, the Proto-Germanic “haimaz” carried the sense of village and is preserved today in place names and in “hamlet.”
As early as 1510, the phrase “at home” was synonymous with “at one’s ease” and by the 1890s “make oneself at home” literally meant to become comfortable in a place one does not live.
I have been thinking about home a lot.
While I was in Yosemite with the Whistlepigs our mentor/guide said, “We desperately want to be home.” He said this in the context of a group of individuals who were not related by blood, but who were committed to doing life together. A group where we could be safe and cared for. The location was not critical, although staying in a house in Yosemite doesn’t suck. What made the “burrow” home for those few days was the company we kept and the life we shared.
Have you ever experienced being “home” at someone else’s house? I had a best friend when I was a teenager. We spent most of our time together. I often stayed at his house or he stayed at mine. Whichever “house” we were at, that was “our” home. My parents treated him like one of our family and his treated me the same way. Doing life together was home, not the location we did it in.
We have supported Habitat for Humanity for many years and I love working alongside the family who will move into the house. However, when asked what “home” means, this is the kind of answer most often given:
“Home is a safe haven and a comfort zone. A place to live with our families and pets and enjoy with friends. A place to build memories as well as a way to build future wealth. A place where we can truly just be ourselves. And whether our houses are big, small, fancy or modest, they are our shelters and our sanctuaries.”
Safe. Family. Memories. Being ourselves. Sanctuary.
Home is what goes on when people are together, the space itself is secondary. What is critical is the life that is lived within the space and who it is lived with. In the movie, The Hundred-foot Journey, Papa says, “Where the family is, that is home.” Home is not a place, it is a community, a belonging.
I have said recently that we are building a new home for Kimray. That is not true. We are building a new house. We are building space. We are creating the opportunity to take our home and experience it in a new location. I said the space was secondary, I did not say it was unimportant. Habitat builds houses that are well designed and well-built for the people who will live there. The people that move into those houses create homes.
It is much easier to experience “home” in space that is thoughtfully arranged and created. Space can improve interaction between members of the community. Space can keep us physically safe which helps us focus on others rather than our own safety. Space can help us identify ourselves and create an extra dimension to our sense of belonging. Space can signal that we are cared for and that there is enough for all.
Space matters, but space isn’t home.
We can create a beautiful and well-designed building. We can include the latest technology and many things to make our lives more convenient and pleasant. We can build plenty of room for all we need to do now and maybe for some of the future. We will do this.
With all that, the building we build won’t be home until we are there. It won’t be home until we are doing life together there. It won’t be home until we all feel safe and can be ourselves there. We will bring our memories with us and use them to decorate our new space, but then we will make new ones there.
No matter what space we are in, our presence together is home.