by Kent Burress
A couple of days ago Jan Gunter and I were talking a little about what makes a house a home. That set me to pondering for a few days.
I thought about my own home and what makes it so special to me. I took some time to look around my house at some of the things that I love – the piano, some of the artwork, a few trinkets here and there, dogs of course. I was about to settle in on a few thoughts when I realized I had a strong feeling of home in other cities, in other houses – long before I got any of those possessions. So back to pondering.
I thought about the Ronald McDonald House and what makes that building seem so much like home to our families, our volunteers and staff. I thought maybe I could key in on some common threads between that special place and the special place I call home.
After a few days of stewing over this question (Jan often sets me to stewing about one thing or another!), I’ve maybe been able to boil my thoughts down to a few observations. First, a home has to be a place of healing. A place to heal physically, to heal emotionally, to heal broken relationships, to heal all sorts of hurts. I can recall a couple of decades ago being sick as a dog and lying in my bedroom while my friend Julie Greathouse mowed my yard for me. How she would come spend time talking with me – kept me awake a lot! But those special moments of healing have helped create that home that I love to be in. I think of the Ronald McDonald House and about our staff who has spent so many years together. Amongst us all we have experienced some unspeakable personal tragedies; flood, fire, death, loss, illness – yet every day we come together in this special place to help each other do more than just endure, to heal. A home is a place of healing.
I think for a house to become a home there has to be hope. Again I think about our team at the Ronald McDonald House. Entire families have sprung up among us while we have been together. There have been opportunities to grow, and in many cases become more than we had even hoped for. We have seen some hopes get dashed, but then we just hope again – never give up hope. We have had some powerful teachers about hope – we have seen hope demonstrated so powerfully by the families that stay with us – and we have hoped along with those families – hoping for a child to recover and get to go home, seeing that hope become reality. And we renew that hope for every family that enters our doors – never putting a limit on the expectation of hope. A home is a place of hope.
Then of course there is understanding and patience – the hard stuff! I think we can tag forgiveness along with this as well. There have been times when staff members were about to lose their religion dealing with the antics and acting out of some of our families – yes, it’s not always butterflies and roses at the House. But once the emotions settle, and we take a look at the burdens our families bring with them, all – or at least a lot of – that frustration turns to understanding. I know you will find this hard to believe, but there have been times when we as staff have stepped on each other’s toes and ruffled each other’s feathers. But being with the families, and loving what we do has taught us the value of understanding and forgiveness. A home is full of patience and understanding.
So does all this rambling have a point? The point is that home is not created by all the physical things that make us feel comfortable. A home is created by the people that belong to the house – and that’s what makes this Ronald McDonald House so much like home. It’s the joys, sadnesses, triumphs, irritations, understanding and enduring hope shared by this team who call Ronald McDonald House their own that create such a beautiful home away from home for our families. It’s the people that make a house a home.