Just before the new year, I went to visit my parents, who still live in my childhood home in the rural suburbs of Rochester, New York. My husband and kids were elsewhere, so it was just me, Mom and Dad. And it was such a blessing.
One morning I was looking out over my parents' many acres of beautiful land, and it struck me so profoundly how lucky I am to have a place like this to come home to, where I know that I am loved, and that the people in my family want nothing more than for each other to be happy.
I know not everyone has a family situation like that, but I wish they did. Each one of you deserves it.
What's interesting to me is that even with all the blessings of my childhood -- a beautiful place to live, a well-functioning mind and body, parents who loved me, no worries about poverty, divorce, relocation or my own physical safety -- I still ended up struggling with low self-worth all the way into adulthood.
I remember my dad asking me once, perhaps on a visit home from college, didn't I have a sense of my own fundamental, unconditional goodness? He asked it in such a way that made it clear that he knew that to be true for himself, and that he assumed I did too. But I didn't. The best I could come up with was that I knew he and Mom loved me, but even as I said it I could feel how unsteady a foundation that was.
It wasn't until I was 35 years old that I actually learned first-hand what he was talking about, and it came not from my parents but through a personal growth and leadership seminar.
The way that transformation worked for me gives me a lot of hope as I think about everyone I know who doesn't have a safe or loving home to live in or return to. Our past, no matter what it is, doesn't dictate our present.
Change is always possible.
Sometimes change comes in the form of someone else being transformed. The absent or abusive parent who is blessed enough to realize before they die how much pain they caused, and comes back to apologize and make amends. No longer needing anything from their child but simply wanting to love them, they offer a safe and loving home now. The relationship is healed, and it is beautiful.
More often, though, the change has to start with us. We can be a safe and loving presence ourselves, for other people who are longing for a home. And we can allow others to be that for us.
As they say, it takes a village, right?
I'm happy to be your neighbor.