“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” – Maya Angelou
At week’s end I intend to be two thousand miles away from home to attend the homecoming basketball game of my high school alma mater. Pretty weird, huh, to leave home to come home? My life has turned out like that.
I am at home in California, and I have a driver’s license and mailing address and license plates to prove it. California is where everything I own in this world is located. It is where I live and work and go to sleep at night. California is filled with relationships and experiences and places that I treasure. I know it like the back of my hand and love it here. Home is where you hang your hat, and my hat hangs in California.
But Arkansas has always been my home. It is the land of my birth. Born, and raised. Arkansas is where I fell in love and became both a husband and a father, and it is where both of my sweet parents were laid to rest. Arkansas is filled with relationships and experiences and places that I treasure. I know it like the back of my other hand, and I love it there. You can never really leave home, so I never really left Arkansas.
Arkansas and California could not be more different if they tried. And I’m pretty sure that they do. But they are both dear to me.
It promises to be a strange week. I haven’t lived in Arkansas in twenty years and only visit on rare occasions, and I could not tell you the last time I watched the Falcons play a homecoming basketball game despite having participated in so many of them in years that are now long gone. But I will feel at home there, because that is where I will be. Home.
Pliny the Elder famously said that home is where the heart is. Well, my heart has two homes.
I will leave my love for Mississippi for another day.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged arkansas, basketball, california, cra, crowley's ridge academy, falcons, heart, home, homecoming, love, maya angelou, paragould, pliny the elder
It’s a peculiar commercial any way you slice it. Frankenstein’s monster might have ordered any number of products with his Apple iPhone from his secluded mountain cabin, such as a packet of Aveeno Positively Radiant Makeup Removing Wipes, or any number of Swiffer products to help out around the house (aren’t they fantastic?). Maybe even Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Series on DVD. But no, he simply ordered two Christmas bulbs, one red and one green, and they were dropped in the snow at his private residence by an invisible delivery service. And, of course, in the only part of the commercial that made perfect sense, even if you just have two Christmas lights, there is always one that will not work properly.
But that’s not all. As the story continued, Frankie made his way into town and scared the bejeezus out of everyone before using his iPhone as a karaoke machine to sing a sweet little rendition of Home for the Holidays with an adorable girl who apparently has a magic touch with those infernal Christmas lights. Then he cried. It’s peculiar, I say.
I first noticed the commercial on Thanksgiving Day amid a houseful of guests, so I didn’t hear any of the words yet seemed to get the message anyway. At the end of the short story, after the villagers accept the monster through the example of the little girl and the camera fades to a glorious view of a magnificent Christmas tree, Apple offered the following request in simple script across the screen: Open your heart to everyone.
Whatever you do, don’t miss Apple’s message at this special time of year: Instead of purchasing one of their products, buy a couple of Christmas lights and let your children sing duets with perfect strangers.
Ha! No, seriously: Open your heart to everyone. I absolutely love it.
It is a sweet message in a carefully scripted commercial with a somewhat lovable monster limping into town with a tear in his eye and a desire to be loved, but it is significantly harder to swallow when the monster appears, well, more monstrous. But I think the message is even more important then. Not because monstrous behavior is excusable. Just the opposite. It is because love is the hope of the world, and the coldest hearts need the most love to have any chance at thawing.
Besides, loving the lovable is far too easy, and wouldn’t you rather have a challenge?
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged apple, aveeno, brad garrett, christmas, commercial, everybody loves raymond, frankenstein, heart, home for the holidays, hope, iphone, love, swiffer
I woke up in the East African village of Kamulu under a mosquito net listening to a rooster that apparently got something stuck in his throat while learning to yodel; in other words, not in Malibu. Appropriately, a man named Moses led our team’s exodus from the Nairobi airport the night before, but when the morning light replaced the darkness, I was surprised by my surroundings despite multiple reports from previous church trips, including my own family. It was simultaneously more primitive and wonderful than I had anticipated.
Why did I travel to Kenya? It isn’t wrong to say that my wife insisted but probably more accurate to say that I needed to see for myself what had stolen her heart. Well, mission accomplished.
Because so many friends have been to Made in the Streets (“MITS”) before me, it would be silly to recount the same observations, like the yummy-ness of chapati, the joy-filled singing of liberated street children, the endless skies on the Maasai Mara, and the beautiful kids jumping streams of raw sewage in the Mathare Valley slums. Instead, I’ll just share a few personally unforgettable moments:
- Meeting Vincent, an impressive seventeen-year-old young man, covered with mud, living in the mud, high as a kite to stave off hunger and cold and yet still able to carry on an intelligent, respectful conversation. I liked him immediately yet left him in such terrible circumstances with a fist bump and will never see him again in person. But he will never leave my mind.
- A sunrise run through Kamulu on a crisp morning with Paul (pictured above), a MITS graduate who has become a part of our family since my wife practically adopted him, and for a moment, matching him stride for stride while imagining what it is like to “run like a Kenyan”—and then watching him effortlessly leave me in the dust down the home stretch.
- Traveling with Jackton and Millie to meet four MITS graduates now working in Nairobi: (i) listening to reggae music and enjoying a vanilla milkshake at the American-themed Java House with George; (ii) eating scrumptious mandazi prepared by Chef Brian in his apartment; and (iii) sharing in an impromptu Bible study with the two Marys. Four glowing successes.
- Standing with my wife in the darkness outside our safari tent and looking up at the African sky to discover more stars than I had ever imagined one sky could hold.
- Sitting under the ceiling fans at church in Kamulu and listening to rescued street kids sing Amazing Grace, particularly the verse that proclaims: Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come / ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
If I’m honest, I think I went to Kenya to check it off my list. Instead, it did a number on my heart, too. Kenya believe it?
Posted in Original Essays, Uncategorized
Tagged amazing grace, heart, java house, kamulu, kenya, love, maasai mara, made in the streets, mathare valley, mits, nairobi, running, safari