What is Home?

What do you think of when you think of home? Is it the smell of mom cooking a favorite dish in the kitchen? Is it friends in your neighborhood? Do you envision your childhood house or the house you live in now?

The words house and home have different connotations.

  • House—a building for human habitation, especially one that is lived by a family or small group of people
  • Home—the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household

At first glance, these two definitions seem similar. It’s where one lives. On closer inspection, however, there’s a slight change in tone. A house is a building for human habitation, but a home is a place where one lives permanently as a member of a family.

A house is a roof over your head that protects you from outdoor elements like storms and outdoor predators like coyotes or panthers. A home is a permanent place of belonging.

I recently watched the movie LION.  Warning: Spoilers ahead! The main character in the movie, Saroo, grew up in a village in India. At the age of 5, he talked his brother into letting him join him for a night’s work, but ended up in a city far from home and away from all of his family. He went from place to place in India, but danger lurked around every bend. A young woman took him in and fed him. At first appearance, she seemed like someone who cared—someone who would help him return to where he belonged.

That was not the case, however. After picking up on the deceit, he escapes and eventually gets adopted into a loving middle-class Australian family. All is good in this new life with this new family for about 25 years. So good that he had forgotten about his previous life—even going so far as to say he was born in another city. It wasn’t until he was in college and saw a snack that he and his brother had dreamed about having as young children that he began to recall his previous life in India.

He suddenly had a deep urge to find his birthplace and return to his family. He began his quest to find home. This was not an easy task. Because he mispronounced the name of his hometown as a young child, no one knew the village he was talking about and he didn’t know how to spell it to find it on Google Earth. But the search consumed him, even to the point of quitting his job. Day and night, he searched. It wasn’t until he searched outside the area he had designated on the map that he found his hometown.

Excited, he flew to India to reunite with his family. When there, he walked to his home by memory, but when he entered his childhood home, it wasn’t his family he saw there. Instead his childhood home was inhabited by goats.

Discouraged, he asked one of the local men, and this man took him to his mom and sister. Reunited at last, tears of joy streamed down their faces. Saroo had found home, even though the house he grew up in now sheltered goats. What a joyous celebration!

His birthmother was grateful for the couple who adopted him and provided for his needs. It’s interesting though, that even though he had all of his physical needs met at home in Australia, he had a deep desire to find his childhood home and to let his family know he is well.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Perhaps all of the things we associate with home, whether it’s good cooking, good times with family, a style of decorating, a location, or a neighborhood are symbols of a more permanent place in our hearts. Perhaps home is where we feel we belong.

What does home mean to you? What things come to mind when you think of home?