I’ve never really believed that home is a geographical place. 

After completing the first grade, just when I might have been getting accustomed to the idea of home as a place, my parents decided to move. My younger sister and I were not consulted and in short order, found ourselves about five hours south of all we had known as home. 

It seems likely that this first disruptive upheaval planted the seed of roaming in me. This seed of wandering has grown over time and has matured into a sizeable bush of wanderlust which must now be contended with, most frequently, by short journeys. 

As we have grown older my younger sister and I have occasionally put our minds together trying to recall in how many houses, in how many places we have lived. The young have no frame of reference for what they experience; all is new, even when the new is more of the same. 

At one school we attended, I have very vivid memories of trying to become part of the group of kids riding the school bus… always a challenge for the new kid. 

It seems like each afternoon on the way home from school one of the kids would start a song: a chanting rhyme as it were.  This game was rhythmic and accompanied by the snapping of fingers, the clapping of hands, and the stomping of feet. 

“Mary stole the cookie from the cookie jar. 

At which point Mary would reply, “Who me?” 

And the group would join in resoundingly, “Yes, you!” 

Mary would sing back, “Not me!” 

And everyone would chant enthusiastically, “Then who?” 

And then Mary would sing out, “Leon stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” in a dramatic and wonderfully accusatory fashion.  Leon would then fill his role, chant his part, and name whomsoever he chose to keep the game going. 

And the chant would go round and round and round with each child being included and then naming another child. 

I remember the longing I had to be part of this happy time, this afternoon ritual. But I was awkward and bookish and “not from around here”.  I was looking for a home with my fellow bus riders while on the way home to my parents’ love. 

This parental love, by the way, has been unwavering. I never, not once, felt unloved by either parent. Of course, the choices they made in life were mysterious and unfathomable and sometimes painful to me — until I lived a bit and added a wife and three children into my equation of one.  The passing of time has helped me gain an appreciation of my parents and the choices they made. 

So, on the bus I began to edge closer to the group one seat at a time, one bus ride at a time, until I had incrementally gained a place on the fringe. 

I began joining in on the chant enthusiastically!  I was so needy. 

Eventually some kind soul in the group felt my hunger and, taking pity on me, tossed the chant my way. “Bill stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” 

I became so flustered at being suddenly and unexpectedly included that my words stuck in my mouth. I knew my role, what to say, how to say it… but I couldn’t. 

The chant.

The finger snapping.

The clapping.

The foot stomping.

The bouncing up and down in the seat to the rhythm of togetherness.

The thrum of acceptance. 

All of it stopped. 

As stuck as the words in my mouth.

As frozen as the expression of fear and dismay on my face.

The acid of shame in my heart. 

I had a chance to arrive at home and I blew it. 

I’ve since learned, after many a bitter experience of edging up on acceptance and looking for a home in numerous church groups, prayer groups, bible studies and church conferences, that these groups can be both helpful and harmful. 

I’ve learned that home is the love of this Being that some call God.  I’ve learned this, that the ways of this Untamable Being, are mysterious and unfathomable and sometimes painful to me. 

This home, this Love, is found anew when I include those that others will not. 

This home, this Love, is still being built in me when I sit with the broken and allow others to sit with me in my brokenness. 

This home, this Love, always, always includes and never, never excludes — regardless of what the religious teach. 

I know now that home, this Love, is always singing to me even when I have forgotten the words to sing back; even when the acid of shame is scalding me. 

Still and again, Home, this Love is singing to me, inviting me, including me. Even when all I can do in return is edge closer to the Song, the Singer sings me… Home. 

William Evans

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