In 1940 Thomas Wolfe wrote a best-selling novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” about a writer named George Webber, who writes a book exposing many of the secrets and stories of his hometown. When he returns home he is greeted by hatred and outrage and it deeply affects him. He is basically banished, heads to New York City and then to Europe. He winds up in Berlin, living under the shadow of Hitler and the Third Reich. At last he does return to rediscover his home with love, sorrow and hope.
While I am not one to live in the past, I do welcome nostalgia from time to time. It is like those comfort foods we often turn to; meals of our childhood which we fondly remember; grilled cheese and tomato soup, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, hot dogs and baked beans. Each of us has our favorite list .I also like to return to my hometown, to walk around the streets, remembering the home I grew up in, my grandmother’s house, the schoolyard I played in, the little creek where we used to catch frogs. And so it was this past week, when the temperature hit 70, and Spring was in the air. I noticed the usual things, but noticed as well, the UPS man greeting me with a big “Hi, how are you doing today?” Others nodding or saying good afternoon. Now, I hadn’t written an expose on anything, but this was far from the greeting George Webber received. So, for this day, I thought, You can go home again.
While I was sitting on a bench by the library, drinking an iced coffee, another image crashed into my consciousness. Millions of refugees from Ukraine, not knowing if they could ever go home again; and I was immediately humbled. Then I thought of those interviewed, be they the heads of government, soldiers, parents, or simply citizens who loved their homeland; and I felt that we could rediscover what is truly important, like George Webber did. Our rediscovery could not be found in seeing our old house, or having a comfort food meal, or just being greeted by a passerby. No, this rediscovery will be seen in much more trying and desperate circumstances. It would be seen in all those incredible souls who have faced overwhelming sorrow, but who have maintained a steadfast love for their families, their country and their God. They have done so under the worst of conditions, but this rediscovery has provided them with Hope. If they can have hope, who are we to shrink from doing the same? Who are we to say, “the world is too much with us,” because a few trivial matters, by comparison, haven’t gone our way this past week Maybe then, we, and all freedom-loving people in the world can say with assurance to those in refuge, to those in hiding, to those fighting to protect their most basic rights, you are not alone, God is with you and so are we. Blessed be the day, when they can go home again.
Milt Fredericks
Lay Pastor of Congregational Care