By: Roy W. Harris
When one mentions home, a stream of emotions and memories flood the mind. It would be impossible to summarize eighteen years of home living in one short story. But one might remember an event or two that proved to be truly life changing. One such event comes to mind for this writer.
I’m not sure how old the child was but he must have been around eight or nine years of age. He’d spent most of his young life living on a dead end street on the east side of his Anderson, Indiana hometown. East 16th street was a great place to live. The little white two bedroom house at the end of the street was strategically located. It was bordered on three sides with opportunities for make believe, exploration and adventure. The great White River flowed a few hundred yards behind the house. It required adult supervision for its’ periodic visits, but was a great place of adventure none the less. The bedroom side of the house was flanked by woodlands complete with a small trickling brook. It provided opportunities for the boy to be all boy.
Across the street was a huge field. A single line of trees separated the field from the little white house. The limbs on the trees hung perfectly enabling the boy to climb them like the monkey bars at a children’s playground. The field was full of places to explore and things to do. It provided a place for March winds to lift paper kites with torn homemade rag tails and a hundred feet of white twine to heights only dreamed of the night before. In the middle of the field was a dug out area which was perfect for playing army with toy guns, tanks and soldiers. The field offered a measure of independence and freedom for the boy. This was one of the few places on earth he could travel beyond the boundaries of his 16th Street yard.
Oh yes, there were others who enjoyed the field and made it special. The Simmons boys lived two houses away and there were several children in that family. Most were older but a two were close in age to the boy. Unfortunately, their influence was not always the best one. On one occasion the little boy repeated some words he’d heard from one of the Simmons boys to another neighborhood child. He didn’t truly understand what the words meant till years later, but none the less, his father impressed upon him, in a forceful and painful way, the importance of not repeating those words again to anyone.
The boy was playing in the field one afternoon when Marcus (AKA Bug) came running across the street and into the field. His father was hot on his heel. His father was out of breath and stopped at the edge of the field. Marcus’ father gazed at the fading image of Marcus for a few minutes, then turned, walked back across the street and back into his house. Marcus said that this happened all the time. He’d get in trouble and run for it. His dad, who was a heavy drinker, eventually would give up and forget about it and Marcus would be off the hook.
Roy filed this away in the back of his mind for future use. Then one day it happened. He got in trouble with his dad. On an impulse, while remembering the success of his friend Marcus, Roy thought it might be worth a try. Oh …. That was not the best decision he’d ever made in his young life. He made for the field at a little boy’s hard gallop, knowing his father would probably chase and catch him. He gave a quick glance over his shoulder as he cleared the trees. His father had not moved. Not a single step forward or backward, just a stern stare in his direction. Wow, maybe this is going to work he thought. He did not realize that time was on his father’s side.
He ran for the safety of the dugout bunker. After taking up a defensive position, expecting his father to overrun the bunker at any moment and rain down a belt of destruction on him, he was pleasantly surprised to see an empty field with no one in sight. Minutes seemed like hours, yet nothing was happening. Roy sat in the dirt all alone. He didn’t know what to do. He’d temporarily escaped his father’s impending wrath – but now what?
He realized that he couldn’t stay in the field forever. It might be wise to scout the perimeter and see where his father was. Roy worked his way to the far end of the field thinking it would be better to approach the house from another angle, hopefully undetected by his dad. He entered the tree line and moved slowly along the edge of the trees until he gained a clear view of his yard and house. What was this? His father had walked back to the front porch and was seated comfortably on the steps. This totally confused the boy. Why would he do that? Why hadn’t he come looking for his son? Was he still upset? Maybe this was going to work after all!
Not sure of what was happening; Roy retreated back into the woods thinking he was out of his father’s sight to think about this some more. Maybe he should take a second look. He moved cautiously back to his vantage point hoping his father had gone inside the house. Oh No! He hadn’t moved. He even seemed relaxed and as though he might sit there all day. An uneasy feeling began to creep into the boys mind and drifted slowly down to the pit of his stomach. Maybe his father was not going to leave the porch at all. Maybe he was simply waiting for his son to come home.
He retreated back into the woods one final time. He was getting hungry. It was almost supper time. The thought began to cross his mind; I want to go home. He was all alone. No security of his father’s approval and protection. No enjoyment of his mother’s comfort and provisions. He was in the cold damp woods with no hope of things getting better unless he went home.
One final time he entered the field from the far end of the woods. It seemed like he’d walked a hundred miles. He could see his house in the distance. His father was still sitting on the steps looking in his direction. Step after step drew him closer and closer to the edge of the field and home. His father did not move. As Roy crossed the street and stepped into the front yard his father rose to his feet.
I wish I could say he swept the little boy up in arms and told him everything was forgiven and there’d be no punishment, but a lesson needed to be learned from this experience. Roy received two spankings that day. The first one was for whatever it was that he’d done wrong to begin with (he still doesn’t remember what it was even to this day). The second one was for running away (he’ll never forget that one). After the punishment had been administered, he was welcomed back into the house. He took his usual place at the table and once again began enjoying the benefits of being part of the Harris family.
I am the boy and this is my story. I remember asking my dad many years later why he just sat on the porch and didn’t come after me. He commented; “you were never out of my site, and I knew you had nowhere else to go and would eventually come home.”
I learned some great lessons that day which have served me well in life. One lesson is that you cannot run away from your problems. In the end it will cost you more. You are better off to deal with difficult issues earlier rather than later. A second lesson is there is no place like home. The world is cold and uncaring. Whether you are a child or an adult, home is the place you want to be.
For those of us who know the Lord and His Word, I believe there is a possible spiritual application to this story as well. God is one who loves us dearly. He loves us enough to allow us to choose how we will live. When we make mistakes, do wrong and wonder away from Him, He still loves us seeks to guide us back to Him. Although we may be out of His will, we are never out of His sight. He understands and waits for us to remember that we have no place else to go. He waits for us to miss the protection of His strong arms, the comfort of His satisfying provisions and the warmth of being part of His secure household. He never runs away from us, we run away from Him.
Turning away from our wrong doing and sin is not easy. When we make that first step towards home, God leaves the porch and races across the yard to meet us. Sometimes we must endure the consequences because of our mistakes, but in the end, our place at His table has been reserved, we remain part of His divine household and we’ll spend all eternity under His protection and care.
In order to enjoy God’s blessings one must first develop a personal relationship with Him. This begins by realizing that something is missing in one’s life. That something is a someone and that someone is Jesus Christ. If you admit to God you are a sinner, believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins and can save you, and by faith ask Him too, He promises in His Word that He will come into your heart and change your life. If you haven’t done that let me encourage you to do that today.
There are times when we all wish we could be like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and click our heels three times and get back home. Roy will never forget when he ran away from home and came back home in the same day. One thing most of us believe; There is No Place Like Home. One thing every Christian knows; there is no feeling like “Coming Home.”