Going Home

This past weekend, after the Next Gen Leadership Team meeting, I had the opportunity to visit my friends and family in my hometown, Crown Point, Indiana.  Crown Point is an “exurb” of Chicago and depending on the day, we claim to be Chicagoans or Hoosiers.  Lately, with the Blago scandal, folks are definitely leaning toward the Hoosier side, but as soon as baseball season comes around we will return to cheering for the Cubs or the Sox. 

 

It’s a small town – Crown Point – with a very particular culture.  Everyone knows everyone’s business; at parties grown men and women sit at opposite sides of the room; and racism, while often frowned upon, is more than prevalent.  Ever since I moved to Washington DC in 2003, I have looked forward to these hometown visits with equal parts of excitement and trepidation. 

 

Visiting my hometown, I always feel the pull of these two very different worlds that I have lived in.  I feel more than comfortable at my somewhat progressive hometown parish – the non-gender inclusive language they use doesn’t make me cringe the way it does when I attend Mass in DC.  However, during the social hour (or two) after Mass, as some of the older folks in the parish tease me about being so liberal, I am reminded that while this is where I grew up, I no longer quite fit. 

 

Playing dominoes is a favorite pastime in my hometown.  Again, sitting around our dining room table, playing this game with my family and friends, is a comfortable place for me.  I feel at home.  And when people start to discuss moving out of our neighborhood because there are “worried about the value of their homes” (read: worried about the growing African American community in our neighborhood), for a second, I am back in my hometown mindset – a mindset of, albeit subversive, racism.  Then, I remember my DC community and how problems around racism, gentrification and housing have torn my new town apart.  And I am reminded that, while I appreciate the value of a good game of dominoes, I no longer share all of the values of my hometown.

 

When I visited Crown Point a few years ago, I challenged, and at times looked down upon, the values of my hometown.  I tried to explain over and over to my friends and family why things they said struck me as offensive.  I wanted them to understand the injustice that still prevailed in my hometown. And I always left feeling exhausted, disappointed and disconnected from the place where I was raised and the people who raised me.

 

Now, I am starting to take a different approach – namely, listening.  I try to really listen and hear people’s concerns about our new president, the economy, the value of their homes (even if I don’t always agree with them).  I try to feel out those rare moments when people might be open to dialogue, but mostly I just listen. I try not to get stuck on the words that hurt my ears, in order to hear the good parts of my hometown values.  I try to listen and apply the things folks say to my understanding of the world and my activism.  

 

And I have found that by listening, I do not leave my hometown in an angry huff.  Rather, I leave feeling connected to and appreciating the community I grew up in – while still recognizing the ways in which I don’t align with my hometown community.  

 

It is hard to live in the tension between hometown and new town. I know many people in our generation struggle with it.  I’m sure we all have stories about our first holiday back at home during college or after we moved out.  But, hopefully, if we are open to listening, to continuing to learn from the people we grew up around – we can find healthy ways to live in that tension.

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About Kate Childs Graham

Kate Braggs has recently completed her graduate studies in Gender and Peacebuilding at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. In her graduate studies, she focused on the intersection of gender, sexuality, and religion in a human rights context. Currently, Kate is working as Justice Advocate for a community of women religious. She is also member of the Call to Action Next Generation Leadership Team, the Women's Ordination Conference Board, and a small faithsharing community in the Washington DC metro area.

One thought on “Going Home

  1. Love your post, Kate. I never thought I would move back to my hometown, until it basically came to fruition about a year ago. So here I am, after 7 years in Chicago and 3 in Oakland, living in the white, middle-class, well-to-do suburb of Madison that I grew up in.

    A lot of people joked: “A prophet is not welcome in his hometown.” OK, I don’t believe I’m a prophet, first of all. But if a prophet is someone who is trying to remain faithful to the Gospel teachings, then I can get into that. I admittedly have felt pretty welcome in my hometown, but then again, it’s a liberal bastion. And my parents and best friend wanted me to move back for years. There are people here who have similar struggles that I have with the Church and society here that have been here and will be here.

    And yet, there are people who will never understand how I got to be who I am. I guess I’m okay with that, and sometimes there are nuggets of breakthroughs with old friends and family members. I think you’re on the right track with listening – nobody has all the answers, but maybe collectively, we can start to realize why God put us here on this earth.

    If it ever makes sense for one to move to one’s hometown, I would recommend it. Don’t just do it for a year, give it two years, just to be safe. There might be a lot of loneliness, nostalgia for how things were (or anger at how things were), but if the opportunity is right, I believe it’s good to bridge our old town and new town identities.

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