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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Home Is Where the Heart Is

“The Return of the Prodigal Son”, Rembrandt

In 2007 I accepted a career opportunity which resulted in my wife and I relocating from western Pennsylvania (where we had lived our entire lives) to northeast Ohio. While the distance between the North Hills of Pittsburgh and the Hudson, OH area was just over 100 miles, at times I felt a million miles away from home.

As I’ve reflected on the ensuing ten-year period in my life, a number of thoughts come to mind. Not with standing there is at times, an unhealthy rivalry between the cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland (just watch clips of the two most recent Steelers vs. Browns football games if you’re not familiar with this relationship), the community we lived in and the people we met could not have been more welcoming.

However, over the next decade, as much as I enjoyed my work, our church, and some of the deepest friendships that I’ve developed in my lifetime, Ohio never really felt like home to me.

My wife and I often reminisce that while she didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh in 2007 when I started my new job, she also didn’t want to leave Ohio in 2017 when I retired and was ready to come home.

I’ve never considered myself a home body. A week after graduating from high school I never again lived in the home in which I grew up.

I had the good fortune to spend 10 weeks traveling around the United States of America and the Caribbean before heading off to college. During college I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a summer living and working in the Colorado Rockies.

My wife, family and I have traveled throughout the world having spent time in: North, Central and South America; Asia; Australia; New Zealand; the Middle East and Europe.

We raised our family in the North Hills of Pittsburgh in the same house for 20 years before moving to Ohio. Of course, that house did feel like home to us and for that reason (and many others) it was difficult for us to leave.

In 2012 we found ourselves so frequently visiting Pittsburgh to be closer to aging parents and new grandchildren that we acquired an apartment in the suburban community in which I grew up. As a result, in my early 60’s I found myself living part-time throughout the year in my old hometown.

On Saturday mornings when we’d walk up the street to purchase coffee and a newspaper, our journey would take us past the school I attended and into the town center where I had my first job. Although the businesses have changed, many of the local store fronts still look the same.

Occasionally, we’d take long walks through the local cemetery where my father is buried, where headstones call out familiar names of families who’ve lived in that town for years.

My reflections on where “home” is and what it means to me have been unearthed recently in a weekly discussion group in which I participate. The group is reading The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J. M. Nouwen, which is the subject of this week’s book recommendation.

One of the many insights I’ve gained during this study is that home is a place and a feeling.

Where is your home and what does it mean to you?

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