A Home without a House

Often, the distinction between a home and a house can be subtle, if not lost.

A house is a place where one physically resides and sleeps, eats and lives; a home is a place where one invests there life and love—“not where I breathe, but where I love, I live” (quote by Robert Southwell, SJ).

Only twice have the two over-lapped: the house in which my family and I reside and the rooms I resided in at The University of Scranton—both were simultaneously homes and houses.

But I have been at home many times before: at Gonzaga College High School, rowing on the Anacostia River with Gonzaga College H.S. Crew, climbing the Rocky Mountains with friends and family, watching the Red South Dakotan sunset on Pine Ridge.

I have found another home in Ireland, but it is without an address. Yes, I live at Trinity College. Yes, I work at Trinity College (maybe spending more time in the Reading Room than my Dorm Room). But I do not have a home at Trinity College. I have found a home in Ireland with my fellow Mitchell Scholars and with the land.

I am at home sipping Hot Chocolate while planning European and Irish excursions with Peter (who is sipping Tea or Coffee). I am at home exploring the mountains and fields of Sligo with Claire. I am at home frequenting the rustic farmer’s market at Kilruddery House in Bray with Megan on the weekends. I am at home walking the streets of Galway with Azza, with no purpose other than to tread historic ground in company. I am at home in conversations over Dinner with Phil and Emma. I am at home debating the philosophical underpinnings of the challenges of the World with Wills. I am at home discussing the future of medicine with Carla. I am at home exploring the beauty of Glendalough with Micaela. I am at home learning the history of Dublin with Byron at the National Museum. I am at home sharing stories of hikes and trips around Ireland with Ally.

And I am at home with the natural beauty of Ireland. From the surrounding hills and waterways of Waterford to the mountains of Sligo. The rolling hills of Wexford to the mudflats of Galway. From the changing landscapes and ecosystems of the Wicklow Mountains to the tranquil sea of Bray. Ireland is full of beauty, beauty outside the person. But there is also beauty in the land of the communities formed by people. Not the buildings—houses—of these places, but the homes. The home of the Irish speakers at the Flea Market in Galway. The home of the farmers of Sligo. The home of the Jazz community in Cork. The home of the worshippers at Mass in Dublin. The home of crystal at Waterford.

A thought I have reflected on the past few months since the election is how much less polarized the Irish community seems to be. It may be naïve, but I believe that the Irish people appreciate Ireland as a home, not a house. In turn, they identify with the home, not the houses. In America today, the politics of identity—of polarization—has taught us to view our slice of America as a house. When I return home to America in a few months, I hope to relate that America is not a house, but a home: A home I hope Americans will begin to find in one another again. A home I have begun to appreciate more while finding another home in Ireland.

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