I was talking to my dearest friend today. She had a realization about "home" that gave her a sense of peace I was so happy to see. I've been thinking about it all day, the power of "home". Home is about more than a house, condo or apartment. There is more to home than the shelter of bricks and mortar. For me, home is reaching my driveway after a long day to see my girls faces at the door as they greet me with smiles and hugs, "Mommy's home!" (I of course also am welcomed by the obligatory grunt offered by my son- warming in a different way). Home is sitting and chatting with my mom over that perfect cup of coffee. Home is snuggling in bed at night with my head nestled in that spot on my husband's chest that was made just for me. Home is knowing every shortcut near my house, and all the neighborhood kids who gather in my yard during summer looking for ice cream. Home is the delivery man from our favorite takeout restaurant up the street, who knows every Friday he'll be bringing me a "Nico's club".
As my friend realized today, home is belonging, to friends, family, a community. Without it we feel lost and lonely. Belonging, having people who know us and people to celebrate our triumphs with, people who love us no matter what and will be there when we fall, that's a home.
I thought about this for much of the day and began to feel broken hearted. You see, for my entire adult life I have worked with people with intellectual disabilities, most of whom lived in "group homes," and I realized, not one of the people I used to work with had that sense of home. I've heard people ask to go home, but they didn't mean the house where they lived, they meant their family home. It's not intentional, but for many who live in these arrangements don't have that sense of home, of belonging. Most of the people I used to work with, were ignored or sometimes ridiculed by their neighbors, I don't remember anyone having a favorite local restaurant with drivers who knew their favorite order. Most of the people I used to work with lived with people they barely liked, but there was an opening so they were put in a house together. I remember one woman, who later became a very important person to me, being told by staff that she needed to say "please" before she could get something from the kitchen. I didn't realize at that moment, such a long time ago, what a horrible statement that was. I am saddened by all the houses I've worked in or visited that were never really homes, just shelters.
Please, if you're reading this and you work with someone or know someone who lives in such a place, tell them sorry. Tell them we tried, but maybe we got it wrong, maybe it's about a lot more than providing four walls and three square meals a day, maybe it should always have been about home...then ask for a chance to get it right this time. Be prepared to listen and act when you ask "what can we do together to make your house a home?"