Everyone should have a place to call home

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 25, 2015

Live United by Ann Austin

I was invited to participate in a story show this November. The subject of the show is “home,” and participants were asked to gather thoughts about their understanding of home — either their own thoughts or excerpts from poems, stories, etc.

Ann Austin

Ann Austin

I have always had a strong sense of home and a catalog of memories back to when I was a little girl of all the places we have lived and the places loved ones have lived. I distinctly remember smells, backyards and favorite hiding places, spaces inside where we gathered and carried out our lives.

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Home conjures feelings of warmth, comfort and protection from the harsh elements outside or the chaos of the world that is so confusing at times.

We find respite in our home; we can rest, re-engage with our loved ones and re-connect with our selves. By the morning, we are ready to start the new day.

These are ideals and what is considered a normal part of the home experience; but such is not the case for many people in our very own community. Home is not a safe place, nor is it a welcoming place, if it exists at all.

One of my favorite poets and philosophers, John O’Donohue, wrote in his work “Eternal Echoes:”

“Within these walls (of home) a unique set of lives is framed and formed. Behind the guise of normal interaction, (people) are having a huge influence on the hearts and minds of each other. While the home may be a powerful cradle influencing mind and personality, the lack of home is also a huge influence. So many children in poverty-stricken areas are homeless. Some are in institutional care. Imagine how difficult it must be for these little vulnerable ones to develop minds and hearts where they can rest and feel the warmth and shelter of self-belonging. Being deprived of intimate shelter at such a crucial time must cast a lonesome shadow over their future struggle to belong within society.”

It’s difficult and nearly impossible to create some sense of normalcy and a feeling of home when people are faced with chaos and are in a constant state of emergency. On the outside, we may look at these situations and think they are self-contained, but in reality, anyone who is struggling in our community does impact our entire community — no person’s struggle is ever self-contained.

We can choose to open our eyes to the reality that people are living in and join together to help make a difference in the lives of our neighbors.

One way to make a difference is to advocate for and support our local homeless shelter, provided through Semcac. The shelter is always full and has a waiting list — it is so essential to help people get back on their feet and is a valuable asset for our community to have.

Please consider joining me along with other community members to reflect on home by attending the Story Show on Nov. 7 at the Lighthouse Event Center, 621 Marshall St. in Albert Lea. The cost of the show is $10 for adults and free for children under 12. All proceeds will benefit Semcac and the local homeless shelter.

We all should have a place to call home.


Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.