Home is more than just a place; it is a gift

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at Herald-Dispatch.com.

“Home is the place,” wrote poet Robert Frost, “when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

An interesting project is to write “Home is the place…” and have others complete the sentence.

One little boy wrote: “Home is the place where you can take a bad report card.” That says something about the little fellow’s home. It says something positive about acceptance, understanding and a whole package of love.

“In my house,” wrote one of Margaret Meade’s oldest friends, “I was a child. In your family’s house I was a person.”

That says volumes about Margaret Meade’s home — one filled with respect for individuals, openness to others’ ideas, and a willingness to accept people as they are.

At its best, home is the place where we are accepted, warts and all.

It’s a place where we are loved for who we are, not what we do. It’s a place where it’s OK to be not OK (at times), and where bleeding wounds and hurting tears can fall on shoulders of people unconcerned with damage to clothing or living room furniture.

Yet often, we hide our hurts at home, putting on game faces and superhero costumes to mask our pain. But hiding wounds can be devastating to both the individual and the family.

“Tears and bleeding wounds are often the mortar that holds the cathedral of family together,” my father once wrote.

Home is a place where we walk through our pain together.

Your loved one arrives, sits down, and you sense the hurt before the first word is spoken. The eyes, the voice and even the posture reveal the weight of the burden. You ask leading, sensitive questions, but not nosey, curious questions. You strive to understand, connect and to help discover the deep hurt so it can be shared.

As Henri Nouwen puts it, “Our primary task in our life together is not to take away pain but to deepen it to a level where it can be shared.”

Because in sharing there is healing.

Home is the place we can heal.

So is home an obligation? Frost’s poetic assessment that home is the place they “have to take you in,” appears negative, at first. But his next line reveals more.

“I should have called it,” the poet continues, “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

That puts a whole new act on the stage. Home is not merely a place that must take you in; it’s something unmerited — a gift! Home is a gift — freely given because you are loved. No person can ever deserve home; there is no way it can be bought. It’s an experience freely given, and one that never has to be paid back. The only payment is the obligation to pass on the love and relationship experienced in your home. Pass it on to your own children and children in the world community.

Home is a gift — born of love, filled with acceptance and rich with the power to heal.