Home. It is a word that everyone recognizes, but it is a hard word to translate into Japanese. I first realized this when I was asked to describe “home” in my college English class.
As simple as the assignment seemed, none of our pencils were moving. A long silence followed. Yes, we have words for house, family, warmth of household, hometown, in Japanese, but nothing that describes just “home.”
Finally I raised my hand and said that we didn’t have a clear grasp of this word, which made it difficult to write about. I must have understood something about home because I felt the word came with complex sentiments. But to Japanese students who had never studied abroad, this word remained a mystery.
I had a flashback to this memory today, and to a time last summer when I was about to hang my laundry out in the sun. As I reached into the clothespin bag that was hanging on the line, I felt something else – some twigs and leaves. At first I felt annoyed and threw them out. But as I peeked into the bag, I realized I was destroying a bird’s nest. Rainy weather had left clothespins untouched, after a mama bird had built her home for her family. When I thought of how much labor it took for the bird to collect so many uniform twigs, my heart sank. “I’m sorry,” I said. But then the next second, I realized by then the birds had left the nest. It was no longer a home to them.
It made me smile to think that the old canvas bag for clothespins that had traveled with us to many different houses for the past 25 years was once a home to a bird family.
Today, years after that English class assignment, I would be able to write my impressions of home. I realize no matter how many times we moved to different houses, we always had only one “home.”
Home is a mental atmosphere in which we all feel welcomed and comforted. Even when there are no walls or doors, home is a consciousness in which you can take a stand to protect those who are dear to you.
Home is wherever healing is taking place. This hymn describes such a home to me:
Home is the consciousness of good
That holds us in its wide embrace;
The steady light that comforts us
In every path our footsteps trace.
Our Father’s house has many rooms,
And each with peace and love imbued;
No child can ever stray beyond
The compass of infinitude.
Home is the Father’s sweet “Well done,”
God’s daily, hourly gift of grace.
We go to meet our brother’s need,
And find our home in every place.
(Rosemary Cobham, “Christian Science Hymnal Supplement,” No. 443).
I believe we can and should pray for all of us to have such a home, refusing the idea that anyone can be displaced or disconnected. Am I too idealistic to think this kind of prayer can help end homelessness, loneliness, and disputes over homelands? To all those who are building, rebuilding, or seeking home, we can pray and send the message: You are safe and always at home in “the consciousness of good that holds us in its wide embrace.”