Home is not a place. Home is where your people are.
Ms. Maggie taught me this lesson last year as Richie, Coleman and I prepared to leave Boston after four years. Ms. Maggie was Coleman’s first teacher. She runs a home-based childcare in our former neighborhood, Jamaica Plain, and has been caring for children and families for over twenty years. (She also is a master dumpster diver and thrift store shopper — capable of outfitting her entire gigantic play yard with tricycles, balls, sand-tables, and slides etc. which she salvaged from the curbs of wealthy Boston neighborhoods. But let us leave stories of freecycling for another day)
A month or so before we moved I talked to her about Coleman. I was worried about him- he was not yet two and we were about to move him away from everything that he knew and the relationships that gave his life meaning: all his little friends at Ms. Maggie’s, including Ian Patrick who was an older boy who had adopted him as a little brother. We would be leaving all of our friends from church and the neighborhood who loved on Coleman and spoiled him and would take him for walks and shower him with treats when Richie and I needed a break. And we would leave our lovely, highly walk-able neighborhood with green space and local coffee shops and the T stop just around the corner where Coleman could watch the trains everyday. I was sad about leaving too, but Richie and I were the ones with the power to make the decision and we felt good about going to Dallas. Coleman, however, did not really have a choice and I was worried that he would be seriously destabilized by all the changes.
And here is what Ms Maggie said. She told me “You and Richie are Coleman’s home.” She said that we should teach him that anytime the three of us were together, we were home. Home could be mobile. It was not a place; it was the love and protection we created together. And we didn’t even have to pack anything for us to be able to take home with us. All we had to do was acknowledge and name that we created home and show Coleman that our care for each other was enough.
So we left. And for one night home was in a hotel. And then home was with my parents for six weeks in north Dallas. And then finally, home moved into our current place, lost sheep lodge, here in oak cliff.
The story of Ruth from the Hebrew Scriptures takes this definition of home even further. Home, the story suggests, is relational. And not limited to your family of origin. We can create a chosen family and live and love within those boundaries. We can pitch a big tent over each other and love each other the way that God loves us. Maybe this message can speak intimately to our ears as a little church without a permanent home in a building. We, the community, are each other’s home. And for many in our midst this is a vitally important place-especially for those who always felt out of step growing up, or like a weirdo in their family, or whose family can’t deal with their sexual orientation, or political beliefs, or consumption patterns. Or all of the above.
Church in the Cliff is a tent which provides shelter and meaning and love for many of us and for that I give thanks to Yahweh.
Home is where your people are.