I once clipped a funny story from "Reader's Digest" submitted by Joanne Mitchell. She wrote, "My brother adopted a snake named Slinky, whose most disagreeable trait was eating live mice. Once I was pressed into going to the pet store to buy Slinky's dinner. The worst part of this wasn't choosing the juiciest-looking creatures or turning down the clerk who wanted to sell me vitamins to ensure their longevity. The hardest part was carrying the poor things out in a box bearing the words 'Thank you for giving me a home.'"
That's a little hard to take. Dinner with Slinky cannot be a mouse's idea of going home.
Another woman tells of a time when she was at home with her children and the telephone rang. In going to answer it, she tripped on a rug, reached out for something to hold on to and grabbed the telephone table. It crashed to the floor and jarred the receiver from the cradle. The table fell on top of the family dog, which leaped up barking and howling. The mother's three-year-old son, startled by this noise, broke into loud screams. The woman mumbled some colorful words and finally managed to pick up the receiver and lift it to her ear. Before she could answer, she heard her husband's voice over the phone say, "Nobody's said hello yet, but I'm positive I have the right number."
Now that sounds all-too-typical - from peace to pandemonium in about two seconds. Any of us who have raised children or even any of us who WERE children probably get it.
Families today come in all different shapes and sizes. And when peace turns into pandemonium, one may long to get away from it all, at least for a while. But the fact is, we each are born into families and we seem to have an irresistible urge to start new ones. At a deep level I believe we know that the family is just about the most important and probably the most enduring institution ever created. Regardless of what a family looks like, whether or not children are present, home is a place where our souls can finally connect with the soul of another; a place where we can, and should, feel safe, cared for and even special.
In 1688 Johannes Hofer, a Swiss medical student, coined a word to describe an illness whose symptoms include insomnia, anorexia, palpitations, stupor, and, above all, a persistent thinking of home. The word he coined was "nostalgia." There is a yearning within the human heart to return to that place where we were secure, loved and made to feel important.
Songwriter Paul Simon picks up the feeling when he sings that "every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be homeward bound."
If we can't be homeward bound, can we make "home" out of where we are? Home may be as much a state of being as a place. We talk about feeling at home when we feel at peace or when we feel comforted. "I am at home in this place," we might say. It's a state of well-being and solace.
If home is as much about attitude as it is about latitude, then we never need feel too far from home. That's good to know, especially during those times when we find our thoughts homeward bound. Can you make the place you are a space of peace? Can you find comfort in your surroundings and warmth in the company of friends? If so, even if you're not at the place you live, you will be at home.
~ Steve Goodier ~