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What does home mean?

Posted: November 20, 2014

I think most of us have memories of our childhood home. It was probably a house filled with siblings, friends and lots of noise. Some of us were blessed with Grandparents and extended relatives. You may have spent summers at the farm, lake or city. You may have gone on annual trips to spend time with them. We also have created memories in our own home with our children.

If you are like me there are signs of my children throughout my home. These days it is quieter, because two of my children are away at college. Fortunately for us, we are enjoying the company of our oldest son. He recently graduated from college and is working in his first job. He has a busy life, but the brief time we spend with him is wonderful. Soon he will move out with his friends for the next phase of his young adult life.

If you have young children, the spaces in your home are probably filled with toys, books and backpacks. There may be days that you would enjoy fewer signs of high-traffic living with children. Days are spent in endless rounds of picking up after activities to keep a semblance of order. There is joy even in the middle of chaos.

Even though two of our children are not living with us, there are signs of their lives everywhere. There is a footprint that they have left behind. It is not only physical, but deeply emotional. Our children are at the center of our lives. And, they create a space that makes our, “home.”

Beyond question, my husband and I would make any sacrifice that our children needed to build a healthy, happy life with a great education. Like many, my husband attended law school at night when our children were young. He also worked full-time and traveled. He never complained and always considered it part of the territory… He is on the road as I write this morning. Like many of our friends, he travels often for his job.

I wouldn’t say that our story is unique. We are grateful that he has been blessed with these opportunities. I am also keenly aware that there are many children who are not as fortunate.

These kids don’t have parents who show up at the Parent Teacher Conferences. There is no one to make them breakfast or pack their lunch. Some go to school hungry. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to the, “city”. It was the life of my daughter’s kindergarten classmate. The teacher gave her crackers at school.

These same children don’t have a parent who will run up to school and drop off the instrument they forgot, or deliver the field trip money, gym clothes or swim suit, etc. that they left in the back hallway. Their parents don’t have the luxury of printing out the paper they forgot to send to their teacher the night before.

These are things that most of us consider routine… We do it. And we don’t give it a second thought. Most of us arranged play dates with neighborhood or elementary school friends. Signed our children up for sports, music lessons and showed up for everything. And, we loved every minute of it.

But, what if you were one of those kids who walked by the park, watching all of the other kids play soccer in their brand new uniforms and cleats and longed for the chance to play? What if you walked down the hallway and heard music drifting out of the music room and dreamed of a chance to play your own shiny instrument, but couldn’t afford the lessons?

This is not, “pie in the sky”… what if you were like one of my daughter’s classmates at Valley View who never had money for lunch so he withstood the constant humiliation of a teacher wondering why he didn’t remember to bring his money. Then when it was time for a field trip, because he had to pay for everything himself, wondered how he would come up with the money. He didn’t want to admit that he couldn’t afford it, because it brought a different kind of shame.

It may seem hard to believe in a beautiful suburban community like Edina that there are kids who can’t afford the most basic things they need. According to Edina Give and Go, there are 750 children in Edina who qualify for free or reduced lunches in the public schools. There are some who will say they don’t belong here. I have been hearing some of this recently…

But, the truth is that circumstances can change. Recently a friend described her neighbor in the Country Club who couldn’t buy groceries after an ugly divorce that left her with a fraction of her previous income, but she had a big, stunning home and young children to raise. Imagine the conversation over coffee. A dream life disappears…

This could be any neighborhood in our community or anywhere else for that matter. We have friends whose spouse never experienced a day of unemployment. Suddenly the company is sold and the lucrative job is gone. After 50, it can take a long time to find another great job. It creates a lot of fear and uncertainty even if one has savings.

During this season of Advent, we are challenged to break open some of the attitudes and ideas we hold. As we gather around the Thanksgiving table and give thanks for our many blessings, we are also reminded of our neighbors that will go without.

If we look beyond blame, we will see the humanity of those who are struggling. And, if we look at the daunting challenges that so many of our young children are facing who are living in poverty, how can we blame them for their circumstances? We are called to be people of compassion, willing to respond to the Gospel call that Pope Francis so eloquently describes in, the “Joy of the Gospel”…

There are no easy answers to complex problems. Some will say it is the parents’ responsibility. I agree. But, the fact remains if parents cannot help their children, someone must. Fr. Gregory Boyle sums it up by saying that we are called to love and serve, not to judge.

Perhaps this is my dream for the season of Advent…. Every child would have a home with a family that loves them and they would have enough food for everyone at their table.

 

—Maura Schnorbach