By Roseline Souebele
Sometimes the concept of feeling at home is misunderstood or misinterpreted. Let’s just say that feeling at home means several things to me. It means feeling at home in your family, in a beautiful apartment or house that you can call home, in your country of residence. It means feeling at home alongside people you know, and people you love. When you travel to a foreign country, you want to find the same warm, welcoming feeling from the inhabitants of that country that you used to enjoy in your previous country, so as not to feel out of place. Home can also be the peace and quiet you find in your new job, and with new friends, just like what you once may have had before, in your other life. Being surrounded by love, you will feel at home.
With all the immigrants who are arriving in Maine today – people full of diversity, experiences, and probably full of mystery, too, to local Mainers – can we say that the immigrants feel at home? And do the people of Maine still feel at home with the newcomers also living here? Without a doubt, Maine is a dream destination for many, not only thanks to its beauty, its landscape, its calm, its safety (and despite its cold!) – but even more because the people who live in Maine have big hearts.
We are accustomed to hearing cries of war, cries from starving children, cries of broken hearts uncared for by the respective governments of the immigrants’ countries of origin, and the smiles and calm of Mainers reassures us, making us believe that we can stop running and rest, in order to catch some breath. The words and open arms extended toward others gives us comfort, and makes us forget our sorrows for a bit. And seeing the success of other immigrants before us reminds us that it is still possible for us to shine in our lives.
Unfortunately, many of the most recent newcomers to Maine are still living in budget hotels, with parents and children sharing one room, sometimes without a place to cook their favorite meals. It’s true that they have a roof over their heads, so what more could they ask for, people wonder. But alas, their dignity, their peace of mind, and their desire to finally taste freedom demand more than that. Can we say that these asylum seekers in Maine feel at home?
And how about those who are homeless in the cold, without the security of a place to bathe, or hot soup to warm them – do they feel at home? And what about those who live in substandard apartments, with young children in tow – do they really feel at home? To me, feeling at home involves so many things, including a stable and fixed legal status, a roof, the freedom to travel both inside and outside the country, a job, an education.
What do you think it means to be at home? Please share your thoughts by writing to Roseline Souebele at [email protected].