A few years ago, when I was in college, I wanted to work at TWLOHA. I dreamed of a life sleeping in a van or bus, traveling around the country telling people about this vision I believed in. Then, I arrived, and my job wasn’t really about traveling at all. I also learned I’m not really designed for being on tour; it is a life of movement, and I am actually a fan of being still.
But sometimes, I get to represent TWLOHA outside of our small Florida town. Like a couple weeks ago when I went with Jessica to California to visit four organizations and counseling centers. It’s really important to us to create and sustain a relationship with the organizations and counseling centers we recommend to our supporters. We hear from people working with resources, and we were very fortunate that last year, four separate centers in California reached out. I worked with them for months to organize a trip where we could visit all four places in just a few days to get a sense of the work they do and who they are as teams.
I should tell you about the amazing people I met, people who are changing the world with the care they are providing on the west coast. I should talk about how I met a couple of people who are a part of TWLOHA’s story, people I have heard about for years and finally met in real life. I should explain how awesome it was to travel with Jessica, who understands when I need to just read a book and not talk to anyone. I should detail my love for California’s mountains and how its slightly cold weather made a smile spread across my face and stay. I should tell you about the peace I felt looking out at the Pacific for the first time in my twenty-four years, the quiet way the wind whipped around, and how grateful I was just to be breathing.
But this what I want to share: “Home is: where I will lay my bones when I die.”
I saw this quote at A Home Within, the first organization we visited. It was on the first page on an art book, with “Home is:” as a prompt at the top, and there were several sentences that followed that line, scrawled by a child in the foster system, whose age I don’t know and whose face I will never see but whose words stayed with me all the same.
I was reminded that we bring our lives, memories and baggage and aches and chances and expectations, to the table when we color in the lines and add definition to our stories. What would the world look like if we encouraged the differences and appreciated them in each other? If we made an effort to look at the world from a perspective we may not understand at first?
I don’t know what it’s like to be switched around from family to family without feeling like I belong to one or becoming attached to people only to be taken away from them without warning. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a group home with other kids who are in the system. I don’t know what it is to live a life of movement with change an ever-present reality on the horizon.
But I know what it’s like to long for home, a place to feel rooted and safe.
That’s the beginning, this tiny common ground, a small overlap, a thread that connects my story to this stranger’s story, a signpost to remember to share grace. I am a fan of being still, but these moments on the road are some of my favorite TWLOHA memories, the moments when I remember that sometimes our stories run together. Thank you, California, for letting yours run into mine.