Last Sunday at church, a lesson was given on Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s recent talk called A Yearning for Home. It’s a wonderful talk, which I urge you to watch or read.
The idea of “home” is an interesting one, and Sunday’s lesson got me thinking about it. We know that a house and a home are not the same thing. A house is a structure where someone lives. Wood, nails, steel, beams–shelter from the elements. But what is a home?
In its plainest sense, a home–like a house– is also a shelter, but not necessarily a physical one.
A BRAINSTORM OF DEFINITIONS
When the question was asked on Sunday, “What is home?” there was a variety of answers:
“Home is where you live.”
“Home is where you feel love and peace.”
“Home is where you can be yourself.”
“Home is an escape from the rest of the world.”
“Home is the place you feel most loved.”
“Home is where you feel taken care of.”
“Home is your sanctuary.”
All of these are excellent answers and correct in their own way. In fact, I think these answers are even more correct than the dictionary definition, which is basically a synonym for house. The sad truth is that there are plenty of people who grew up in houses that never had that peaceful sense of “home.”
In Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, he spoke of a dog who traveled 2,000 miles over several months to reunite with his family. I have a similar true story:
One afternoon when I was in ninth or tenth grade, I looked out the window and saw a reddish German Shepherd mix trotting down our street. I called to him and he came up to our gate. We made efforts to find his owners, but no one claimed him. He was ours now and, because of his coloring, we called him Sundance.
For the first few months, Sundance would sneak out of the gate whenever he had a chance. He would gallop up and down the street as we ran after him, eventually catching him, and bringing him back to the house. But one time, he ran out–and away. He was gone.
We called the Humane Society to see if someone had brought Sundance in, but he wasn’t there. We put up signs, asking if anyone had seen him, but we didn’t get one phone call. We drove up and down streets. Nothing.
Days went by. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the dog we had grown to love was gone for good. The best we could do was hope that he would find another family.
A week and a half went by. It was the afternoon. School was over for the day. I was returning to the house after dropping my brother off at a weekly lesson.
And there…was Sundance.
He was sitting on the corner of the front yard. He was dirty, but wagging his tail. He was home.
We have no idea where Sundance went during those 8-10 days. But he never ran away again. In fact, he was so devoted to us that we could walk him without a leash, either right next to us or a few feet ahead. He stopped when we stopped. He never crossed the street without us. He never ran after another dog.
My mom, brother, and I have always said that if we could choose one animal to talk, it would be Sundance. He always seemed like he was just about to say something.
This amazing dog lived with us for the next 10 years. A few years after I graduated BYU, while my mom and I were teaching at the same school, we received a phone call from my brother that Sundance had laid down in his favorite spot in the backyard and passed away.
HOME IS ABOUT THE HEART
Clearly, in Sundance’s case, “home” was where he felt the most loved and taken care of, which means it had nothing to do with the actual house and everything to do with the people in it.
There was a time when the house I grew up in was also home. My family was there. It was my physical and emotional shelter from the rest of the world.
When I bought my own house, that became home. I could be myself there. It was my sanctuary. It’s where I relaxed. The pictures and decor told my story.
And then I got married and moved to the Pacific Northwest. As I adjusted, the concept of home became a gray area for a while. Everything up here was very new, despite the fact that my sweet husband sold his house and bought one for us to start our new life together. A house we found and picked out together. Still, it took a long time for me to stop calling California “home.” It was habit. It’s what I knew.
Then I sold my house in California and the umbilical cord to that home was finally cut. Amazingly, selling it wasn’t as emotional as I thought it would be. I realized that somewhere in the first few years of marriage, home became where I am now. And, although I have a tendency to get overly attached to houses I live in, the real reason that this is home now is because home is wherever my husband and I are together.
A LOVING SHELTER
So, yes, home is definitely a shelter from the world because home is where love abides. Home is where the craziness of the world is left at the door. Home is that place where we have the power to create an atmosphere that can affect others. If we do it well, people who enter will notice.
If I had the choice, I hope I’ll be remembered (among other things) as someone who knows how to create a home–one that is loving, peaceful, cozy, and welcoming. One of my favorite compliments (because let’s be serious, we all love compliments) is when someone tells me my home is warm and inviting. I love that. When I hear this, it feels like I’m doing something right and putting something good out into the world, even if it’s just our little corner of it.
Everyone, at any age, deserves to know the feeling of home. Tragedies, like the one last week in Florida, could be avoided. A true home, whether it is in a house, a church, or in a tent under the stars, gives a person the sense of self needed to face the challenges of Life.
How different the world would be if everyone felt loved, welcomed, and embraced. How different it would be if everyone had the peaceful refuge of home.