It happened while I was walking in Loma Linda, California. I remember the place and enough of the faces to recall the moment in clear detail. ‘Stater Brother’s’ grocery parking lot. Two men. I had just walked out with my backpack full of items Lisa and I would need for supper and was starting my three-mile hike back to our apartment. I heard one of the men shout and thought at first it was directed at me. Being 2,000 miles away from home for four months – it would have been highly unusual for someone to speak to me in such a tone – one that had a familiar quality as if I were known by this person. I turned, almost excited to think someone knew me, only to discover the voice was directed at someone else and I watched as the two men embraced and laughed and started into a conversation that seemed to be a continuation of another. That is what friends do – they pick up where they left off.
At that moment I felt homesick. Lisa and I had spent four and half months in Pennsylvania and were now finishing up our four months in southern California and this was the first time I had really longed painfully for home. And it was sparked by this seemingly uneventful moment of watching two friends embrace. I began at that moment to think about my friends and how much I missed them. Lisa and I miss our family in our travels but we talk to them daily and stay involved in their lives. But we lose contact with our friends. ‘Facebook’ has been a way to stay connected – but there is a superficial aspect to social media that cheapens everything to snide comments and silliness. When you really miss something – you want more than that.
That day I decided to begin patching things up with an old friend. Our relationship was broken and it was time to fix it. I missed him and we talked that day on the phone and we cried and said how sorry we were and that when we got home we would get together. I remember walking in downtown Redlands California talking to him with my voice breaking and could not give a damn what people around may have thought. It was one of the most liberating moments of my life.
Now we have been home for a few weeks – enjoying our new grandson, Conner Jack, and spending much-needed time with family. For me it has been a chance to see friends and shake hands and hug people I have missed. Being able to substitute at the school where I worked for twenty years has allowed me to see those friends again. These are the people of my world – where my life orbited for so long. I love them – and am not ashamed to say it. They may think I’m nuts with all the hugging and smiling I have done seeing them again. I want them to know how important they are to me and no matter where Lisa and I go next – these people are more than friends – they are my life.
Life separates us from things we love. I have lost my brother, my mom, my dad and my grandparents. I have lost things of value that I cannot get back. I am banking that Jesus told the truth when he said he was preparing a place for us – because then I will see them again. But losing things is painful. Being away from those important people confuses you into somehow trying to redefine yourself. People in Pennsylvania and California didn’t really know Lisa and I the way our friends and co-workers know us. Being in a place for sixteen weeks can lead to false impressions. We may appear to them as knights in shining armor with not enough time to really notice all our flaws (which are many). Traveling allows us to fly in and fly out without time to notice the warts and scars. But back home there are people who do know those flaws and some have been hurt by them and yet they miss us and want us to come home.
That is what I realized that day in that grocery store parking lot. The people who really know us best, are waiting to embrace us home.
Good to be home,
Steve and Lisa