My son called me from Winslow, Arizona. It’s one of several stops he’s making this week as he winds his way from Oregon to Georgia. He’s doing the reverse migration that his momma made. Stephan, who has grown up in Oregon, has accepted at job at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village.
Come Thursday, God willing and the Texas creeks don’t rise, I’ll be meeting him in my hometown. There are all kinds of reasons why I still consider Columbus home, even though I’ve lived as long in Oregon as I ever did in Georgia. I’ve spent years trying to understand why I feel like an immigrant to the Pacific Northwest. The simplest truth is that Columbus is the community that helped raise me.
Never underestimate the power of belonging.
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect,” says researcher Brene Brown. “People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.”
It’s not the town’s logo or the city’s riverfront that keeps a person returning. It’s that sense of belonging. Ask any of the thousands of military families why they decided to make Columbus home after they retired, or the war widows, like my own mother, and I bet they’ll tell you it’s because of the people.
I have a letter my mother wrote to my father when he was in Vietnam. It’s one of the last ones she sent him before he was killed. In it, she says that she thinks she’ll return to Columbus, Georgia at some point because “Columbus is the place the kids call ‘home’.”
I started my education at Edgewood Elementary and graduated from Columbus High with the Class of ‘74. I recently received notes from two of my former teachers. Both wrote to say how very much they are looking forward to attending the Springer Opera House’s debut production of MOTHER OF RAIN, the novel I wrote that the Springer’s artistic director Paul Pierce has adapted for the stage.
One of the greatest feelings in the whole world is making those we respect proud. Culture tells a person they ought to live only to please themselves. That’s not true. The most miserable people around are almost always the most selfish and self-centered.
Last Sunday, a lady at church stopped me on the way out the door. “Don’t be too disappointed if the stage play isn’t quite what you thought it would be,” she said. Then taking note of my puzzled expression, she added, “They may have a different vision for your characters than you did.”
“Ahh,” I replied. “No worries. I love creativity and the whole process of creating. I am so excited that Paul Pierce adapted this novel for the stage. I can’t wait to see what he and the actors and the musicians do with it. I just know it’s going to be great!”
I believe in the power of art. We are all our very best selves when we are imagining, when we are creating. It is in those moments that we are closest to being the people God imagined us to be.
Some religious folks maintain that it is in the suffering that we most identify with God, but it is my most deeply held belief that it is when we are creating that we are boldly manifesting the image of God.
Creating, in all its various forms, is a holy thing.
I hope you’ll see MOTHER OF RAIN, that you’ll take this opportunity to join us at the Springer for a time celebrating the power of community and the importance of belonging.
Thank you for all the grace you’ve extended to me over the years.
It’s good to be home again.
Karen Spears Zacharias is a former Ledger-Enquirer reporter and the author of MOTHER OF RAIN (Mercer University Press).