We are now just over 5 years into our relocation from the Northeast to the Midwest. And the void I feel most strongly year after year is our family’s loss of service to the community.
There are many here who feel we (or at least I) DO serve the community. Two years ago when I put out the message that we needed at least 1 of 3 weeks of babysitting coverage daily to avoid Husbeau taking unpaid time off, I was overwhelmed with all 3 weeks being covered in less than 48 hours. Many said “How could you be surprised? You’re always doing for others.”
But I don’t feel that way…
I consider myself really, really fortunate to have a husband who is very much in lock-step with me on how we live and our spiritual beliefs. Even more so because our beliefs have changed over time, but always together. Could you imagine? Talk about something that could break a marriage. But it didn’t. And neither of us compromised or faked our beliefs to appease the other. We have very serious and in-depth discussions about our beliefs–not just with one another, but with others. Not long ago our beliefs were put through the ringer to determine if we, as Quakers, could peacefully fit into a Christian co-op. Neither of us was more prepared than the other to answer questions. We have lived every moment together by the mantra that we do for others what we would want someone to do for us. Not because anyone’s done for us or we want someone to do for us; but because we are called to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) It’s not about what you HAD done to you or what you want someone to do for you in the future. It’s about looking at someone’s situation and saying “What would we want if we were in their shoes” and then offering that to them. Not just what’s convenient or easy–but offering things that require some sacrifice and effort. Because that’s the obedience that ensures that someday, our needs will be met. And they always, always have been. Our needs have always miraculously been provided for even when the problems seemed insurmountable.
Like 3 weeks of babysitting fulfilled in 48 hours. Plus some meals. Falling during Girly’s birthday which was made special for her by someone who didn’t even know us well. Miracles. We believe this happens because we live in service to that command. Both of us equally committed to it.
By the way, the picture above is my husband retiling a tub surround for very close friends who needed the tub recaulked. They really needed the tile replaced (and confirmation that there wasn’t mold in the walls) and they are the least handy people on the face of earth. But they are wonderful and we love them. And that was a job we could do for them because they host our family in their tiny home and feed us and show us St. Paul every year for the last 5 years. It was more gratitude for their role in our lives and seeing a need we could fulfill for them in gratitude.
I miss when we lived in New Jersey and looking back, it felt like doing mission work. We lived in a very diverse (and relatively small) town. We were very engaged in the community–sitting on different boards, attending local events. We were “present” and “visible”, so we got to speak to so many people and hear their needs and know their lives and reach out to them in ways that we could for them. Our kids lived with multiple colors, languages, lifestyles, and socio-economic statuses. We were fully immersed in the richness of diversity and I never really appreciated that until we moved to a place that is very homogenous.
I miss being foster parents. Ten years ago, I’d have never guessed those words could possibly come out of my mouth. But I do. I miss it. I miss everything about it. I miss problem solving and researching to help these children’s health and well-being. I miss advocating for their needs when they moved on. I miss ensuring that they never felt less than our own children when they were in our care. I miss my son knowing that our role was to help children who couldn’t be with their families for a while. He knew this so deeply as our family’s “purpose” at a very young age and now I feel a complete lack of family purpose. We cannot be foster parents anymore because Girly’s emotional needs really don’t allow for that–and that’s okay. But we have never re-established a family purpose. We never consciously did it in the first place–it just grew out of our lives.
I miss having such an open home. I guess people would see my house as being very open for Midwest standards, but these are people that think I’m being rude when I just offer up guidance to a lost-looking stranger in Whole Foods because I don’t work there. So it’s a different perspective.
I miss feeling like we did good for the world around us. And I’m kind of at a loss for how to rebuild a life of service in an environment that is so foreign to me that I can’t even navigate the culture here. It never ceases to amaze me and always makes me feel like I just don’t get it. When I return to New Jersey, I do finally feel like it’s not my home anymore. I miss it, but I don’t have that sense of “coming home”. At the same time, I’m not at home here in Illinois, either. That’s not the same as saying “I hate Illinois”. I didn’t say that. But I don’t feel like I belong here or that I understand life here or that I fit comfortably here like I did in New Jersey.
So I need to carve out a life of purpose for my family and like many things that just grew organically before relocation, I need to do it consciously this time.
Relocation is a lot of work…