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  • Voices: Longing for Home, by Elizabeth Evans Hagan

    by Elizabeth Evans Hagan

    Two months ago, my husband and I moved. It’s wasn’t a new state kind of move or even a new city move. We relocated 10 minutes across town in the same zip code to a home we hope we’ll be for a while.

    And with it came change. The need for a new driver’s license. The need for a new dry cleaners and to try out the grocery and drug store in walking distance to where we now live. I mean, why drive across town if you don’t have to?

    Although this is a move we chose and are happy about, there’s a part of me that longs for our old house. I miss my evening walking route on my old street. I miss being next to a great Target. I miss the clerks at my neighborhood post office.

    Of course, these longings are hardly worth uttering aloud for fall into the category of “first world problems,” but all this thinking has turned my mind toward an experience that is more universal and all the more common these days: being a refugee. Those who moved recently too, but not by choice.

    As photos and stories of Syrian refugee have filled my newsfeed over the past several months and we’ve entered senseless debates on whether or not refugees are welcome in the United States, I’ve tried to pick out a story or two to really stick with closely. In these stories, I’ve thought of what it’s like to be a mother, a father and a child without permanent home in a nation that is not their own. I’ve thought about those who wake up camps without anything familiar in reach and with basic necessities scarce. I’ve thought about how unsettling it must feel to be on the move with your fate held in the hands of politicians and military leaders who often forget all of our shared humanity.

    Two weeks ago, while in Nairobi, Kenya I was having lunch with a friend who escaped Zimbabwe during the 2002 political coup within inches of her life. Without desiring it, she too was forced to move with no preparation to a place that felt nothing like home. After leaving, “I longed for my old life desperately,” she told me. Though she was glad to be safe and with loved ones, “The place I most wanted to be for years was Zimbabwe.”

    I can imagine our Syrian brothers and sisters would say similar things if we were able to sit down and chat. They’d tell us of their longing for normalcy. They’d tell us they’d missed even their neighborhood, even the crankiest of neighbors. They’d tell us that what they most wanted this holiday season was to go home.

    So when I’m tempted to complain about the lack of accessible parking at my new grocery store versus my old one, I’m going to keep uttering the names of my Syrian brothers and sisters. Though I might not meet them personally anytime soon, I want to keep finding ways to hold their story close.

    It’s true in life, we’re all on the move. But, some of members of our human family would rather just be at home.

    Elizabeth Evans Hagan is an intentional interim minister serving churches in the Washington, D.C., area. She blogs regularly over at Preacher on the Plaza and loves collecting airline miles, along with her husband Kevin for their next trip.