By Lori A. Ropa, CAE, Executive Director
When I was a little girl, I remember watching our television with mixed feelings of horror and elation as a farmhouse from Kansas flattened the Wicked Witch of the East. A moment later, Dorothy emerged and found herself in a strange place filled with strange people. Everything she knew and loved, with the exception of the house itself and her little dog Toto, had vanished. She was frightened and felt very much alone.
L. Frank Baum’s story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is about Dorothy’s journey through Oz and her quest to return home. Although I’ve had several very enjoyable trips to Kansas, I’m quite sure that her desire to go back wasn’t related to the specific merits of the State itself, but was more deep and personal than that. She wanted to go home.
So how do we really define “home”? It’s not a specific set of geographic coordinates. It’s not the type of place someone lives, like an apartment, house or condo. What is “home”?
If you ask people to give you one word or a phrase that defines home for them, you’ll find that after the exercise you have a collection of very powerful words and phrases, and not one of them will suffice when used on its own. Here’s what I heard when I asked.
Safe. It just feels right. Happy. Loving. Comfortable. My own bed. Welcoming. Warm. Picks me up. I can rest. Fun. I can be myself. Relaxing. Embracing. Strengthens me. Security. Comforting. Where I belong.
Based on this limited and absolutely unscientific research, it’s clear to me that “home” is really a complex set of feelings that is nearly indescribable succinctly. It’s the way you feel when you are in a place, not the place itself. It has more to do with emotions tied to people than to location. Home is based on the very human connections we have that enable us to feel all of the things my so-called research detailed.
Dorothy wanted to go home. She wanted to be with people she cared about, and who cared about her. She wanted to feel like she belonged – that she wasn’t an outsider. She wanted to feel safe and warm. Home was all of those things to her, and I would venture to say, it is similar for all of us.
In late July, The Arc moved into a new home. While it’s true that technically we moved into new office space, that wasn’t our goal. It was to create an environment where very special human connections come to life and give the people we serve, our volunteers and our staff a place they can feel safe, welcome, and feel like they belong. A place that feels like home.
When you enter The Arc’s new home, you’ll immediately notice that our space is filled with the faces of the people we serve. They welcome you as you enter, smiling at your from our Annual Picnic, 5K or the Holiday Open House. The colors we chose are warm and inviting. The furniture is comfortable. There are spaces designed for privacy, and those that are designed for collaboration and learning. Most importantly, the people you’ve come to know and care for – friends, staff, and volunteers - are all here, and we’re waiting to welcome you too. It’s the human connections that truly make our new office a home. We hope that you will come to and spend time here, whether for a training, individual advocacy, People First, Aktion Club, or any of our events. The Arc should be a center for our community. A place where we all belong.
Toward the end of The Wizard of Oz, Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, tells Dorothy that her ruby slippers can take her anywhere she wishes to go. She clicks her heels together three times and wishes with all her might. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
I couldn’t have said it better. There is absolutely no place like home. We look forward to seeing you.