Where is Home?
It’s only been eight days since I’ve left Swazi, and it already feels like months! It somehow gets harder and harder to leave each time I go. For my fourth “transition” back to American culture, you’d think by now I’d be accustomed to the dramatic changes; however, there are some parts of culture that still disgust me, mostly because it’s so easy for me to fall right back into it. For example, the simple ideal in Swazi where people come first. They are a very “hospitable” people, particularly to visitors; whereas here we are a VERY self-centered people. Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, not me. I do value people!” You may think you do…but do you truly value them over yourself? More importantly…do you value them over your precious time?
I’m talking about showing up two hours late to something because you ran into an old friend who really needed to talk. Or dropping your plans for an entire DAY to help someone in need. Or putting away your Ipod so you can talk to the person next to you. Or…
It’s something as simple as needing a place to sleep for one night. I had called up some friends looking for a couch to crash on while passing through town. The initial responses actually aggravated me. Excuse after excuse of being too busy or that it just “won’t work out” really shocked me, and then I remembered I was back in America, where time and convenience are idols in our daily lives that we never take time to acknowledge. Think about that…
In America TIME and CONVENIENCE are idols that supersede people.
And after you’re out of that attitude for awhile, you realize how repulsive those idols are.
It may seem trivial to some, but it’s just one small example of something that happens daily that proves this self-centered attitude we as Americans are so ingrained that we hardly notice it…until you go to a country like Swaziland and realize that there are entire countries of people who not just say but live like people (NOT time nor convenience) are of importance. That’s why Swazi feels like home to every visitor who comes. Because you are treated as such. I’m not saying Swazi is perfect; you can clearly see the heartbreak of the country in my blogs, but it is definitely something that sets them apart. And I’m not hatin’ on “Amurrica” either; obviously, I love my country and thank the Lord I’ve been raised in a blessed country with so many perks. I am saying that it is FRUSTRATING to come back to a culture like this, knowing that it’s just a matter of time until I warp back into that same mindset that I hate.
Aside from the cultural differences and the obvious material world ridiculousness, the hardest part of being back home is that I don’t feel “home.” And that’s a terrible feeling to be around people who love and support me at home but I don’t feel at home, though I wish more than anything that I would. Sometimes I wish I could forget Swazi and pretend it’s all just a dream like it sometimes feels, because it would be SO MUCH EASIER. But when there’s a 16 year old girl with an 8 month baby girl who are still holding pieces of my heart, that’s not something I can just pretend doesn’t exist; it’s not something I can forget…ever.
It’s hard to tell people about Swaziland because there’s a lot of pain involved that not a single person can truly understand because there hasn’t been a single person who has been consistently with me through it all. So, (I don’t admit this proudly because it’s not at all what I should do, but I’m just being honest) I avoid the topic. When people ask about Swazi, I answer simply and quickly change the subject. Most people don’t even notice, which I guess proves why I don’t talk about it much. But I think the reason I avoid it is because I know they can’t comfort me. I get frustrated when people don’t understand (even when they try) and it’s not fair for me to be frustrated at them. So I was feeling pretty depressed about being home until a conversation I had yesterday…
Prompted by the Spirit to swing by church just to pray quickly before I went to work in my classroom, I stopped by Newman thinking I’d be in and out. Just as I knelt to pray, Fr. James, the new pastor, walked through the sanctuary. Feeling like I should introduce myself, I greeted him and he invited me to chat. My “quick” visit turned into an hour and half conversation that was the best comfort I’ve received! After patiently and attentively listening to me spill my heart out about the Swazi mission and my children, he said,
“I can only imagine your pain right now. This is not your home.”
I had only briefly mentioned my difficult time leaving Swazi and hadn’t said a single word about not feeling at “home”, but he could already sense there was something much deeper than what I was communicating. It was the best thing to just HEAR someone understand me! I didn’t have to say anything else because he understood I’m in pain being away from the children who have my heart. He understood I was trying to pretend I’m happy about being home, and he called me out on it. “How can I help you through this?” he asked. Even better, “What can we, as a parish, do to help with Hosea’s Heart?” What a blessing! He felt the pain with me and wanted to do something about it.
I just needed someone to notice my pain, let me grieve, understand that I’m going through a loss, and offer to help me through it.
In that moment, I found home.