I never expected Woodland Mall to feel like coming home.

We walked in a bit early for our appointment with the Apple Store – because you can’t just walk in the store anymore, thank you Covid.

Others with my particular skin tone were just one of many shades around me and I couldn’t help but smile. It somehow felt right. My shoulders relaxed and the tension of the day (which I always carry) was gone.

Maybe that’s the natural result when yours is the only white family in the apartment building in high school. Maybe you just get used to being called “the white girl” when people can’t remember your name at work. Maybe you just have a different view of life and you have learned to shut it down in a very white West Michigan.

Whatever it is… I want to go back to Woodland Mall and grab a Starbucks simply to be in the mix of different people.

What feels normal to me makes my family uncomfortable. This is a tension I thought I’d learned to live with after 17 years in West Michigan. But the moment I was surrounded by people of such glorious varied shades, I realized that part of me had been shut away too long.

City streets and country roads both have a rosy glow in my mind. My children, however, have lived in a subdivision or in the country with two acres.

They’ve never had to carry multiple keys simply to access their home. While I’m thankful for that, there are also unintended consequences.

How do I make sure my kids encounter different people without those amazing people feeling as though they’re the “token” person in our lives??

All of this is tricky.

My parents certainly were not trying to give us a unique living experience. They were simply thrilled to “win the lottery” and get to live in subsidized housing after being crammed in a drafty old mobile home for almost a year. It just so happened that our three bedroom apartment was in a complex two blocks from a notorious Chicago housing project.

I remember the surge of the crowd down our street after the Bulls won, listening as cars were overturned in the “celebration”.

Now, as my kids listen to Weird Al’s parody “Another One Rides the Bus“, I tell them that’s exactly what it feels like on a Chicago city bus during evening rush hour – precovid of course. They look at me blankly.

I guess I will take a page from my parents playbook: continue forward and count your blessings.

Yet I’m shoving in my own page: consider their hearts, watch carefully for sneaky ideas and speech, help them observe and practice compassion, notice our community’s responses and try to balance the biases. Live it out for them, right where we are.

Experiences and emotions are so complex and varied. It is almost impossible to completely grasp someone else’s unless you cultivate compassion motivated by the Truth that each and every person is created in the image of God.

I’ve found home in the Midwest, out West, big city, large town, apartment, house, a 70’s mobile home and even a 31ft trailer. Currently home is on two acres in small-town West Michigan.

Yet finding home has been uniquely changed with each flavor added to the mix. Home is far less about where but who.

My home is and will always be holding the roughened hand of my best friend. Someday our children will have their own stories about home – and I will leave the pen in God’s hands.

But in the meantime, you better believe I will be making that drive out to Woodland Mall.

Photo by Jesse Collins on Unsplash