Becoming People of a Place

Becoming People of A Place

Becoming People of A Place

Not to brag, but I have a great job.

I work with college students across the States and Canada helping them in their campus sustainability efforts. I work with students who trying to understand that sustainability isn’t just a term used in the environmental science circles, but a lifestyle that they hope to see spread throughout their respective campuses.

The reason I tell you this, is because on occasion, I have the opportunity to travel to these campuses and visit with the students. Earlier this year, I spent four weeks travelling the west coast, visiting eight campuses in or near places like Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles – you know, the cities that young folks like myself often only dream of.

Recently, my mom was inquiring about that trip, so I showed her some photos I took along the way and shared their respective stories – collecting oysters while row boating in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, spotting a bobcat while hiking in Los Padres National Forest in California and visiting the world-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.

One thing you need to know about my mom, is that the furthest west she has been is eastern Illinois, and that was when she was 18 years old. She has happily lived in the same rural corner of northwestern Pennsylvania her entire life, just as her mother did and just as her mother did and so on. So when I showed her the photos and told her the stories, she seemed to enjoy the fact that her youngest son was a “traveller.”

Naturally, our ensuing conversation was on the topic of the places we have visited. The question of how many states we have visited came up and it was then that I realized, much to my surprise, that I have now visited more than half the states.

“Not bad for a 24-year-old from small town Pennsylvania,” exclaimed mom. “You’re already more than halfway there.”
As I thought about this statement more, I realized that “halfway there” is not necessarily an accomplishment.
“I’m not sure if I actually want to visit all the states,” I said sheepishly.

The conversation didn’t last too much longer, but I have been thinking about it ever since. I can’t stop asking myself some of the following questions:

What are the benefits and drawbacks to being on the go so much?

How does my ‘pack-a-bag-and-go’ attitude affect others?

How does this attitude affect me?

Why do we view visiting all fifty states or filling a passport with stamps as an achievement?

Realistically, I will never visit all fifty states, and even if I do, so what?

I’ve come to realize there is very little to gain by conquering these travel challenges other than some sweet photos and memories that are difficult to share with anyone who wasn’t there with you. The way I see it, as displayed to me foremost by my parents and grandparents, is that there is much more to gain by staying put.

For example, my dad seems to know every person, road, creek, tree and animal that calls that part of Pennsylvania home. He knows things like the location of the eagle’s nests in the area, the productivity of each year’s tapping of the sugar maple trees, the length of the growing season, the best automotive repair shops, and certainly the quickest way to get home, no matter where he may find himself. Dad doesn’t know these things by chance, he knows because he has stayed put and observed fervently. It may be worth noting here, that my parents are not farmers. They live on approximately a quarter of an acre in town within range of the constant sounds of a manufacturing shop. There is one tree on their property.

Maybe we need to rethink the accomplishments of travel. Maybe the fewer the places someone has been, the more reason to celebrate. Maybe my mom’s lack of travel has blessed her with something that I cannot understand – a place to call her own.

Before we get up and go, as we often do, may we consider the consequences of our movement. May we become people of a place.

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10 Comments

  1. Tyler’s mom likes “staying put” and reading his blog posts!

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    • Your son seems like an awesome guy. Good job raising him up Mom!

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  2. Hmmm I was reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture when I read your post: ephesians 3…particularly verse 17 “then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” So it seems that we get our strength from rooting down into God’s love, not flailing about, seArching aimlessly. Nor do we have to go anywhere to don’t Christ for he has settled down into our hearts, made himself comfortable, poured a cup of tea, lit a fire and opened a good book. He is not going anywhere!
    I know for myself, that I have spent so much time being restless, longing to be somewhere else, wondering what i am missing in the other “room.” I have traveled a little bit, gazed upon the wonders of other continents & met new people, who’s lives were changed because of the love God showed them through me or others, but that very same phenomena can & should be discovered taking place here…at home….
    Home…no joke, it is only in the last couple of years of being connected to, invested in & committed to my local church community @ the vineyard that I have finally after years of longing for other places or situations, that I find myself growing roots & feeling @ home.
    Intentionality…
    People of a place. Well, Mr. Amy I do pray that you find yourself becoming a person of a place, & we should be opposed if that place were here in buffalo. Thanks for this post.

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    • Caramelauren: Thanks for sharing your thoughts! The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence until we learn to be rooted and grounded where GOD has placed us. Keep on being rooted and grounded! -shalom!
       

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    • oh my, we ” should NOT be opposed if that plasce were…Buffalo.” typo above… do stay here for awhile! haha.

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  3. I work in a remote Indigenous community in Australia. Today someone asked my Aboriginal co-worker if she was going anywhere over the holidays. She laughed and said “no, this is my home!” she’s happy to stay put like generation after generation before her. It really gives a sense of focus, not needing or wanting to be anywhere else. Being present in your current situation.

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  4. Good stuff…  I can’t help but think our physical wanderlust is connected to a deeper spiritual reality; we don’t know who we are, or what we were made for.  Unfortunately the people who are supposed to be helping us plumb the depths of those questions, often try to answer them with cliches, or avoid them by meeting our consumeristic demands.

    PS Can’t help noticing your book list… Wendell Berry and a bunch of missional authors…

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    • Steven: I totally agree. I think our physical rootlessness is a reflection of our inward loss of identity- which I think stems from our desire to be ‘autonomous’ – not needing GOD, family or community – when in reality “it’s not good for man to be alone”. We are “lost” on a multitude of levels.

      Our book list is reflective of the conversation here which draws heavily on the mashup of Wendell Berry’s writings and the missional church impulse. I look forward to hearing more about your interest in the two. -shalom!

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  5.  Dean: Thank you for sharing a little snapshot of your life. That is a beautiful comment from your co-worker. I’d love to hear more about what you’all are up to out in Australia. -shalom!

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  6. This is a blessing to here, because at this point in my life my only desire is to be rooted and planted in the community, church, family, and with a husband that the Lord desires.  To begin learning how in Christ to be accountable, love, and serve all these precious things that He puts around me.

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