What is home?

A shelter-in-place rethink

The government mandate to “Stay-at-Home” makes me jealous of people who have their in-laws in their home community. Even dysfunctional, disagreeable or outright weird family members can be a huge support in times of crisis. I feel this poignantly because my nearest relative is more than 350 miles away.

I’m from so many states I’m not sure which one is home. It’s made me think a lot about what makes a place home. Many people say home is where their spouse and/or children are. Others describe home as the place where they grew up—where their roots are. Some people say they’ve found a “career home,” a “church home” or even “home away from home.”

For me, Spanish moss and Cajun-French culture bring my mind home to Southern Louisiana, in the same way that winding streets full of traffic and all things “peach” bring me home to Georgia. But I no longer live in either state. Fond memories are certainly pieces of the puzzle. What is it that completes the picture of home for you?

Ultimately, I think home is where you find people who “get” you—the ones who’ll go out of their way to bring you your favorite brand of chips and salsa after they’ve made a TP run during a quarantine. These people might be relatives, or they might be friends, but we tend to think of them as family. Love your job? I’ll bet you’ve referred to your colleagues as “work family.”

“Home” is a place where you understand and respect the culture and traditions that you share with those around you. Home might be something you sense immediately, or it might be something you grow into over time. Home inspires you to invest your passions to make it a better place, even as you love it just as it is. And sometimes, it means choosing to “adopt” things that you might never have even considered important. 

When our new neighbors came over to welcome us shortly after we moved into our current house, they asked whether I would root for Tennessee (our most recent home state) or Kentucky in state university athletic competitions. “Well, I like blue better than orange, so I guess I’ll support Kentucky,” I replied, unwittingly denigrating the hallowed courts of the Big Blue Nation. There was an awkward silence as they searched for a response. I don’t think our die-hard wildcat neighbors had ever encountered someone for whom basketball wasn’t sacred! (Fortunately for me, I’ve found a few people in our new ZIP code who are sports-ambivalent …)

What is it that first prompts a person to connect with authenticity and then continue a dynamic relationship with others that involves the things that are most important? I think it could be summed up to shared values conveyed through mutual respect, revealed via genuine communication. It’s the sharing of values and ideas through communication that helps us find our way home.

Learning about others, recognizing what’s important and adapting to your environment are key factors in creating a connection that can grow into a bond, if fostered within a healthy environment. You can’t do that without effective communication, and this doesn’t necessarily require a shared dialect. Remember that a smile is a universal language.  

How we communicate—articulating our shared values and relating to each other—is key to capturing the minds and hearts of the people around us. Sometimes, like children who find they have shared interests on a playground, this happens effortlessly. At other times it requires discipline and conscientious effort. It’s why we’re told to “Think before you speak,” and that “Honesty is the best policy.” It’s also why successful business leaders carefully plan their communication strategies—before, during and after a time of unforeseen events.

Happily, I’ve landed in a career home that values both collaboration and individuality—the supreme yin and yang of professional development. My Smith “family” is full of expert communicators who selflessly share their knowledge within our team, while encouraging each person to apply his or her unique perspective to creatively help our clients reach their goals. There’s no single “right way” to solve a problem. Excellence is the tie that binds us. 

Is it possible for you to find a “consulting home?” I might be a little biased, but my experience has been that the people at Smith truly set us apart. While you may be restricted to buying only two gallons of milk right now, the good news is that there’s no ration on creative solutions—no “social distancing” necessary in helping one another succeed. So, I’d say, yeah; I think that’s possible.

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