When I moved to Uganda, I met the question, How is home? as part of the standard greeting. I could have easily given the expected fine without putting too much thought into the process, but the inquiry tended to get me thinking. Were they asking about my home in Soroti Town, or in Minnesota, or the others I’ve lived before? I took to redirecting the question by answering Soroti is fine, and referring to Minnesota as home-home. More recently I relocated to Pittsburgh and feel a kinship here, too. So what happens to home as I continue my wanderlust? Does Minnesota take on a triplicate moniker? Do my strands of place-connection trail out behind me, like the tail of an escaping balloon?
I’m a third-culture kid, having lived overseas for two years and a smattering of months in the formative, memory-making season of life. Because of those memories, I have never felt truly at home in categorical boxes as an American, a Minnesotan, a Ugandan, or anything else.
In response to the Where are you from? question I can answer nowhere and feel utterly alone, or everywhere and feel the need to pull out my passport as proof, but both of these separate me from the questioner in a quest for bragger’s rights. I personally feel less lost in the expanse of home possibilities if I explain where I’m going instead. My life, transient as it is, is a journey. Essentially, all of us are called to live into who God created us to be and to journey into a closer relationship with Him. If I tell people where I’m going, I have immediate companions.
Knowing we are journeying to a destination could be enough motivation to break into a sprint for the finish line, but it is the traveling process that enriches the result. A common third-culture kid trait manifests in a resistance to form lasting friendships because of overwhelming knowledge that at any second the suitcases could be in the hall, so what’s the use anyway? If we follow that temptation, we are not living the joy that God intends for us. We must find a way to be grounded in transit, in being fully present in the now while preparing for the what-will-come.
For me, grounding comes from delight in little things: waking up to lavender jacaranda blooms scattered across my jogging path, knowing how to spell and prepare rich foods from both sides of my heritage, hearing the neighbor down the street whistle the chorus – Hallelujah, thine the glory – as he limps to the bus stop. I have been known to keep one-line journals, where I write down one amazing thing I notice each day. By waking up to the world, I wake up to God.
Grounding also comes from pushing toward, not away from relationship. I have found that the places I more quickly refer to as home are the ones where I have made a significant kinship connection. They are where my parents, mentors, or friends reside. They are places that I know I can revisit and find welcome, even after lengths of separation. They are rest stops along the road, where I lighten my pack by sharing a meal, but probably pick up a few pebbles to commemorate the moments together.
Grounded in transit. It’s an uncomfortable tension, but one that must be lived, for each of our efforts here approximates our true home yet-to-come. If we practice home-making as a form of communion, we become more fully aware of each other and of God’s presence in our journey.
Esther Harder spent six years in Uganda and Rwanda as an English / Math / Computers teacher, football coach, and peace facilitator. Currently, she works in a library where she is known as the computer literacy instructor, homework mentor, crocheted flower coach, and you-dream-it-I-make-it resident artist. Esther blogs at roamingpen.blogspot.com.