I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home recently. Obviously around the holidays it’s nice to think about home as family and friends from your hometown, the community walking with you wherever you are in life. Thoughts of spending time with loved ones, your cat, the smells and sounds that always feel so familiar are often present this time of year. In some ways returning to that home feels strange, as you leave your new home behind for a few weeks. Whether that is your home in college, a new city and a job, or in my case my YAV site, it can be bittersweet knowing you won’t be spending the holidays with that infant of a home. In the past few months so much has happened that has made a little adobe style building in the high desert next to a highway feel like home. Couple that with the loss of what has recently become familiar and the holidays can seem like you’re not going home at all. Then there’s thinking about home for someone other than you. Someone who calls a bed and a nightstand in a shelter home, someone who calls a shopping cart full of belongings, or a car where they can sleep between shifts at their two jobs home. Someone who calls a cage their home; because what was home grew teeth, and threatened to devour them if they did not leave.
I am privileged that the first two ideas of home are what first comes to mind for me. I have never experienced homelessness, nor been forced to leave my city, state, or country because I or my family were in danger. I think many of those who read this will find the same is true for them, though I do not pretend to know anyone’s specific situation. When visiting the US-Mexico border, we listened to a presentation by a member of the Sierra Club, who asked us to describe what images came to mind when we thought of the border. The thought experiment is designed to show the flawed image we have of the border and how if we aren’t intentional about seeking other viewpoints it can be far too easy to buy into the narrative that the border is a desolate militarized zone which is uninhabitable. While there are sections of the border where this is certainly true, about two thirds of the border is unseparated, a beautiful river or gorgeous prairie where coyotes, deer, and birds all make their home. The point was that the negative connotations we may hold of the border are all man made and can be undone. There are beautiful communities all along the border, both of wildlife and of people.
But I believe that this thought experiment can be used regarding the idea of home as well. It is essentially the basis of this blog post. The ways in which privileged people like myself think about home can often leave us blind to the reality of others. It is all too easy to head home, and ignore the man standing next to the Interstate exit holding a sign saying “anything is appreciated”. All too easy walk home from work and ignore the man sleeping in the alley. All too easy to say “there is no more room in the inn”. Imagine a couple comes to your house in the cold of winter seeking refuge, would you let them in, give them blankets a meal, maybe a place to sleep? Or would you turn them away, possibly holding them in cages separate from each other and prosecuted with 80 other folks at once for having the audacity to knock on your door and ask for help? The fact of the matter is that this blindness to the situations of others is real from the individual level to the international level. The fact is that the government we elected is doing the latter, and then some.
Prepare the way of the lord,
Make his path straight.