My last year of college, I met another student who told magical stories about the small town he was from. As a military brat, I was particularly enthralled by his tales. And so, when I graduated I packed up for a similar small town, and hoped to find the same wonder, love, and safety that he'd experienced.
As the less naive of you might have guessed, it didn't quite turn out that way. While it's a lovely little town, I figured out within a year or two that the only people I was making friends with were other transplants. Natives weren't friendly at all. They weren't unfriendly, but as one of them said to me, "I don't know how to make new friends, because I've never needed to." (And here I'd been thinking I just stopped being likeable after college...)
It wasn't until I met a Mennonite pastor, Max (whose family has been in their town so long that he can see the porch where his great-grandmother smoked pipes from his own porch), that I found someone who understood. Max had been telling the same sort of Phil Gulley/Jan Karon stories that my college friend did, and when we had a few minutes alone, I told him about my experience. He thought quietly, and told me that he thought the place I might feel most at home would be somewhere with lots of other nomads. He said that people are like lego bricks, and we tend to feel most at ease when more of our little notches line up. I was grateful to him, and I've rarely felt so deeply understood by someone than during our brief conversation.
And he's right. The two places where I've felt most at home were Washington, DC, and college-- both places where not many people were from there.
The last year I was in The Process, the bishop was upset that it takes a while for me to open up to people. He saw this as arrogance, or as being unwilling to look at myself. I can't tell you how comforted I was when a wonderful friend said, "doesn't he know that's part of being a military brat?!" Because we make friends, but we're often skittish, and we've learned to be cautious about revealing ourselves. (Related note: this makes those people to whom we can reveal ourselves immeasurably precious to us.)
I'm thinking about this today, because Angela posted a great video (see below), and I was grateful for the reminder that I'm not the only one.
I've tried to explain to a few people how difficult it's been for me to live in this small town for 8 years (though there have been parts I've loved). Without this context, it can be impossible for people to understand. (Sometimes even with context explained...)
We look to a person's origins, their hometown, for clues about them. If, like me, they don't have a hometown, we tend to assume they're a blank slate. Instead, transience itself becomes a formative hometown.
The Feast of the Annunciation
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