I moved 32 times before my sixteenth birthday. I was not a military brat and my parents weren’t moved around for corporate work. We just moved. A lot.
When I was nineteen years old, I joined the U.S. Air Force and moved on average every two years (more frequently than that, actually). I created the same life for my wife and children that my parents had created for me.
When I was twenty-nine years old, I separated from the Air Force and moved to Columbus, Ohio. I lived there for 3.5 years, the longest I had ever lived in any one house in my entire life. And when I was thirty-two years old, I moved to North Carolina, where I have now lived for the last three years (almost).
I saw the world, I met lots of great people, I experienced lots of great things. But something is missing.
I don’t have a deep connection to the people and the place where I live. I have no lifelong memories here. I don’t walk into the store expecting to run into people I know. I don’t read the obituaries to see if my friends have died. I have participated in very few weddings, because I’m rarely around to do so. I don’t know what the dirt tastes like, because this isn’t the dirt I ate when I was a kid. I don’t know what this place looked like before I arrived, because such a time exists so recently in my own lifetime.
If I moved again, there would be people I would miss, but not in a way that others would who have lived here for a long time.
I am a tree without roots. I am dust in the wind. I am unconnected. I am unknown.
There would be those who would claim to know me, but they don’t. They’ve only known me long enough, or have only seen me often enough, to know what I have allowed them to see. In time, they will know what I cannot prevent them from knowing, but right now, I am who I let myself be to them.
We are not meant to be trees without roots, nor dust in the wind. We are not meant to be unconnected and unknown. We are meant to live life together. We are meant to love. We are meant to be connected and known. And that means, we are meant to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability, however, comes with perks. To love is to be loved. To bear another’s burdens is to have one’s own burdens borne. Vulnerability, community, life together, loving, allows us to weep when another suffers, and likewise to have others weep with us in our suffering. It also allows us to be joyful when others are joyful, and to bring joy to others because of our own joys. It allows us to experience the happinesses and sadnesses not just of our own lives, but that of others. We can celebrate birth, baptisms, and weddings. We can celebrate life. And we can mourn sin and death. And the births, baptism, and weddings, and the life, and the sin and death that we experience of others is real, it is connected to us by the people and the dirt we are united to in our living.
To leave is to lose. We lose either that which we have in our connectedness and vulnerability, or we lose that connectedness and vulnerability we were cultivating in our staying. We lose. We lose opportunities for mourning and for joy. We lose opportunities for burden-bearing and for loving. In both directions.
Wherever you are, the seed is planted, the roots are growing. Wherever you are, your dust is settling. Let go. Live. Love. Connect. Be vulnerable.
* The thoughts above were inspired by Wendell Berry. Whatever good is in them, is a credit to him. Whatever bad is in them, is a debt to me.