For probably the tenth time in my life I just finished reading “The Hobbit” and it has made me think about going home. That’s it! I understand the story is about this great adventure of a certain Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (who happens to have the same birthday as me – September 22nd) and his many escapades recovering the stolen treasure of his ancestry. But really – I think – it is a story of him going back home. Forever changed by his time away – Bilbo, in the end, returns to the place he calls home and to the people he calls his friends.
In order to go home – Bilbo had to leave home. In order for Bilbo to sing poetically at the first sight of his birthplace after his year-long adventure – he had to know fear, danger and experience being treated as an alien in a strange, foreign land. Something in his simple and structured life had to be challenged and even threatened in order for him to know the joy of going home. In some ways – Bilbo’s story is our story – is everyone’s story.
I have written on different occasions about the feeling of going home after being away for several months. After our extended time in Arizona – I wrote about the excitement Lisa and I felt to finally get back to our Kentucky family. Traveling with Lisa’s job has been and continues to be a great adventure for the two of us – one we will cherish years from now as we sit around telling stories of people and places long after our traveling days are through. But our stories of traveling will always conclude with the joy of returning home. As in “The Hobbit”, ours will be stories of great fun and exciting places – but in the end – a story about home.
Lisa and I know what it is like being (as scripture calls it) aliens and strangers. She is now working in a setting in which she is really a minority in terms of ethnicity. The people she works with have been wonderful to her and she feels a kindred spirit for her co-workers even though they are mostly of a different skin pigmentation. She has had to adjust to the way medical terms are expressed. For example – some of her co-workers describe fainting as “falling out” and it took her a while to understand that. Where Pennsylvanians laughed at our southern accent, here in Georgia we are really not “deep south” enough. So we are again in a strange (though beautiful) land and we are learning to adjust.
Who knows how our traveling will change us. I really doubt it will cause any great disruption in our values or personality. We will have, perhaps, good stories to tell and maybe advise for other would be travelers. But in the end – I am certain we will be the same people we always have been.
Having said all that – maybe there will be some changes in us. At the end of “The Hobbit” and upon his long-awaited return home, the wizard Gandalf remarks to Bilbo:
“My dear Bilbo! Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.”
Perhaps that will be true for Lisa and I. We will certainly be older. I hope we will be wiser. I really doubt we will be much richer. But I am fairly certain we will be really, really glad – to be home.
See you soon! Steve and Lisa