In my school days teachers regularly marked attendance by calling out students’ names. Those who were present would reply “present sir” and if anyone is absent, some other student will say “absent sir.” However, as classes began some of our minds might have wandered many places thus making us oblivious to the happenings of our classroom. These students were presentbut absentin their minds.
Is such absenteeism prevalent in our homes too? This is not about parents who stay away from their homes for employment or children who stay in boarding schools. But there are many homes were physical presence means nothing. Recently one teenager told me “I do not share any of my feelings with my parents.” Family members are physically present in such houses but some of them or all of them are emotionally absent. Then house is reduced to a stop over place. Essential aspects of family like cooking, eating meals together or praying together may be ritualistically practiced. However a mechanistic pattern of doing rituals do not give needed life support to its members. This is when we are present but absent in essence.
Machines have robbed opportunities of family members to share the workload. This has reduced the work for its members but also decreased the time families spend for a common purpose. Each of the family members have their own friends to talk to in the privacy of their own rooms and their own mobile phones. They enjoy their own favorite programs in their own gadgets. With less time spent together and less common space, family members grow distant from each other.
Who suffers the most from such distant relationships in families? I believe that each of the family members become victims of such emotionally absent but physically present life in our houses. When children are young, by nature they extend their physical and emotional touch to others. Yet as they grow older they will soon learn to adopt various distant behavior patterns. Here each of the family members live in their own worlds. They may share their joys together but pain and hurt are safely bottled up in their own lives. This is when houses become in essence lodges.
But houses can be homes where there is openness, love, acceptance, sharing, and forgiveness. It is where our good and bad experiences will find meaning. It is where one feels safe and secure. Even the very remembrance of the place makes one want to live even in the midst of despair. There is such an home in the Bible. The home of the prodigal son was not perfect but it was a home according to the above standards. Even after the son left home for his own personal happiness, his memory of his home was that of safety and abundance even for the servants which gave him the hope to live.
Who has the responsibility of making the house a home? Parents and other adults have a major role in this process. But as children grow older they are to be trained to build their home. As each member places the necessary bricks in the structure, it will become a home not only for its members but also for many others. Let each of us get to work to be always present in our homes. Remember each brick counts!