Home Is Where the Hope Is
A couple of years back I had the great privilege of running a workshop at the beautiful Ashburnham Placein Sussex, as part of a weekend exploring the theme of radical hospitality.
When I first heard about the theme for the weekend, my first thought was, “But what is home? And how can we extend hospitality when we’re not sure what home is in the first place?”
For years I have been thinking about home and homesickness. A lot of my work with people who are living with dementia considers what home means, and I have come to realise that home is often a “who” rather than (or as well as) a “where”, a person in addition to a place.
The workshop I hosted considered - among other aspects of home - all of the wh- questions of home. “Where is home?” may be the most obvious or conventional question, but it soon became clear in our discussions that to ask “When is home?” is also a question worth asking, even though it sounds pretty clumsy, and doesn’t appear to make immediate rational sense.
The reality is that beyond an occasional glimpse - or sometimes a season of our life - home can evade us. For some, home seems to exist only in the past, a better and happier time (or at least remembered as happier) that cannot be returned to. For others, there is a sense that their true home lies ahead, just on the other side of the horizon. Writers and thinkers across the centuries have made similar observations with sometimes opposite conclusions. CS Lewis has written plenty on home and homesickness, and in Till We Have Faces, he reflects:
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing - to reach the Mountain, to find the place where the beauty came from […] Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but going back.
Whether behind or ahead, such enquiry about the nature of home offers an avenue of rich discussion and reflection.
As we drew our discussion to a close we started to think about how each of us might nurture home in the moment, in the right now. We somehow necessarily live in the tension between the not-anymore and the not-just-yet.
Starting small, with each act of welcome, maybe we can learn how to grow home.