If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Mother Teresa
I’m a particular admirer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta because my beloved daughter joined our family from the Missionaries of Charity orphanage in Calcutta. At first Jessie didn’t speak English, but she did know a few words. One of them was Mother. Of course at the time she meant Mother Teresa, not me. Not yet. It was always so special when she glimpsed Mother Teresa on television. Clearly she’d seen her in person, too, and loved her unconditionally.
I love this quote, don’t you? We’ve forgotten we belong to each other. And so often we do.
The Color of Light, fourth book in the Goddesses Anonymous series, came out yesterday. The reviews are good, which delights me. But the theme of The Color of Light can be summed up by Mother Teresa’s quote. Among other things, this is the story of a church that has to learn this particular truth, as we all do. We belong to each other. And with that intimate kinship, comes responsibilities.
I’m often asked why I choose a particular issue for my Goddesses novels. I never choose an issue, then think of a story to go with it. In fact I never choose an issue. Issues choose me. They present themselves as I write and insinuate themselves into my plot. Always.
This time, though, the issue of homelessness is personal.
When I was in seventh grade we lost our home. My father may have been good at what he did, but he was a bad businessman. The bills finally caught up with him. The IRS caught up with him. The house went in payment for a copious amount of debt.
Like the Fowlers, in The Color of Light, we went to live with relatives. Mine was my grandmother, who lived just blocks away. Unlike Shiloh I didn’t have to change schools or help my parents search for work in other states. My father’s business didn’t fail. He continued working. The money he earned continued to go other mysterious places. But we never again owned our own home. I shared a small room with my grandmother who visited other family as often as she could to give us privacy.
My family was never counted as homeless. We had a roof over our heads and food on our table. I graduated from the same high school I would have graduated from had things been different. But I remember clearly how it felt to be dispossessed. My grandmother was generous and loving. She did everything she could to make us feel like her home was ours. But the furniture, the utensils, the blankets on the beds? They belonged to her. The house was tiny, her retirement cottage, and we were interlopers for the five years we lived there.
I ask myself now what would have happened if she hadn’t been there. So many suffer so much more than I did. But I remember well that desolate feeling of belonging nowhere, of mourning the good life we’d lost, of counting the moments until I could go out into the world on my own and make a real home.
You see? I understood Shiloh Fowler from the inside out.
We do belong to each other. Homelessness is not a problem easily solved, but it is easy to become homeless. Statistically many people are only a paycheck or two away. Can’t pay your rent or mortgage this month because you have other bills? Try that a few times and let’s hope you have a relative or friend to take you in. A child develops an illness that your insurance doesn’t quite cover? The wage earner in your family loses a job through no fault of his or her own?
My grandmother reached out to us. We belonged to her and she to us. We were lucky.
Who belongs to you? Who belongs to me?
Worried this book is dark and joyless? Let me give away the ending, so you won’t worry needlessly. The truth is really so simple. If we extend our hands to others who needs us? Suddenly we belong to each other.
And what a joy that can be.