Here I am sitting on my porch on a sunny Memorial Day morning in Columbus, Ohio and I am remembering something different that one usually expects on this holiday. I am remembering that it was just a year ago (June 1) that movers loaded a truck with my belongings and then we trekked from Kalamazoo, Michigan to make Columbus my new home. Ohio was the fourth move and the third state in which I had lived in the span of seven years.
I sit on my porch in the Weinland Park neighborhood of Columbus today, noticing a few early risers walk or drive on my busy urban street and I feel at home. My small porch is full of blooming potted plants, two porch chairs and a table. I am grateful that I resisted the urge to downsize these items in the great moving purge necessitated by the much smaller apartment I now occupy. They provide an excellent set for these early summertime musings.
I can’t help but think to life a year ago, when I eagerly began to explore this new city, live into a new job, find a new church, meet new friends and do all the things you do when you move. I truly love the adventure of exploring a new place and meeting new people. I even enjoy learning the strange and mundane things about living in a certain place. (Like that I should avoid driving in my neighborhood on Ohio State football game days.)
But, I am also going to say this right out loud — moving is really, really hard.
I have a ridiculous number of friends all over the country, even the world. But, I wasn’t able to call any of them to ask if they wanted to grab a drink or dinner at any of the dozens of bars and restaurants that populate my neighborhood. I had to try out a half dozen new yoga teachers and even more classes in order to find the ones that best fit my needs and style. Only now am I a beginning to get to know those teachers and students who surround me on a weekly basis. I had very few people to ask which grocery stores would have the variety of foods I buy. I had to make appointments with new doctors. I had to find a new group with whom to work out at the YMCA.
A year later, the sights, sounds and people surrounding me in Columbus have become familiar, but not without quite a bit of effort and a lot of loneliness along the way. I am remembering today the stories that are told over and over again in the Bible about the importance of welcoming the stranger. I am remembering that God tells the people of Israel that they should welcome the foreigner, because they, too, have been strangers in a strange land. I am remembering how I, too, have relied on the kindness of strangers (to quote Blanche Dubois) over and over again as I have moved.
On this Memorial Day I am remembering the importance of home and how it really has nothing to do with a particular place. Home is about the people who surround us, who love us, who helps us when we need it, who feed us and care for us. Home is about knowing we are welcome, no matter what. Home is a feeling of comfort when the world is less than comfortable. Home is sitting on your porch, drinking in the sunshine, saying hello to passersby on a breezy summer morning.