Home is where the hearth is.

The end of year is oft a time to look back with some remiss and forward with some hope. We tend to think of highs and lows – heights and hollows – yet I find I think more of hearth as the years continue to pass.

There is a mythology about home for the holidays and renewal of vows to be more conscious of family and friend but these commitments often fade. So let’s think about the end of year slightly differently.

Let’s think about hearth this year.

Hearth is that place of warmth and comfort, but it need not be a physical spot. We have within our own psyche those experiences and moments that represent hearth. My home life is no Norman Rockwell painting (is anyone’s?)  and as often as not my family is scattered to the winds with family and friends of their own to be with during the end of year. One rule for happy healthy adult children: never guilt them into spending the holidays with you – you have several hundred other days for that.

Yet I experience hearth in many ways throughout the year:

  • The cashier who calmly worked with a customer who – wrongly – thought she’d been cheated. When I complimented the cashier she just said, “People get confused, so you have to help them.” Were you that calm the last time you were chewed out in front of others?
  • The neighbor who always takes in the trash can of his next-door neighbors even though they don’t ask him to. His neighbors go away for the weekend a lot and he simply doesn’t want burglars to get any ideas.
  • The kid at school who sticks up for another, shy and quiet, so the bullying never begins.
  • The landlady I’ve had for years who does everything with a handshake. We’ve never had a written piece of paper – or a problem – with anything. Some people you can just take at their word.
  • The businessman who loads an old woman’s (overstuffed) bag in the overhead without being asked. Just because.

The beauty in all these vignettes is they just happen as a part of life. It’s what these people do when no one is watching.

As I get older the highs and the lows have smoothed out a little bit. Maybe its having grown children or not worrying about promotions at the office anymore or simply having gotten over myself: who knows? The point is I experience the warmth and hope of hearth throughout the year in the goodness of those around me.

The hearth is a touchstone. It gives us relief and resolve. I hope the hearth in your life is broad and strong and warm and safe as you find those moments throughout the year that remind you of what really matters.


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