What does place have to do with strong families and family legacy? RuthAnne Irvin writes a wonderful piece called “Redeeming Home: A Christian Theology of Place in a Placeless World,” for Southern Equip.
She starts with the story of Ruthie Leming, wife, mother of three daughters, and middle school teacher in Starhill, Louisiana, a town of 2,000 people. Ruthie grew up in Starhill, a picturesque town with Friday night football games, Sunday dinners after church, and a town graveyard filled with generations of local families.
Her brother, Rod Dreher, left Starhill. But Ruthie stayed.
And when Ruthie got terminal cancer, the town of Starhill rallied. They took care of her children, brought the family meals, paid the medical bills, prayed for her healing, and celebrated her life when she died.
What’s the point?
Ruthanne Irvin says it this way:
Some people who never experience a community like this long for Starhill, with its picket fences, front porch swings, and mild summer evenings. But the longing for a community like Starhill points to something deeper than material comfort: it expresses the innate desire to be known and cared for, as Ruthie Lemming was. People long for place as it was meant to be, place as it will be one day.
I’m afraid in our very transient, “on-demand” world, many have forgotten the value of place. We’ve forgotten the theology of place. I wonder if this stirring in our souls is really the reminder that we need a place to belong.
Indeed, as Irvin says, “We create new places—cathedrals, villages and homes—for refuge and rest, seeking some form of consistency in an unsettled world.”
What do you think? How is your sense of place? Does your family feel rooted in the community where you live?
I suspect an often missing part of family legacy is stable, lasting connections to the people in one particular place. Ruthie’s story speaks to the value of sticking with a community of people who know and take care of each other. By staying, by belonging to a place, our own families are strengthened along with the wider community.
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Published September 3, 2021