Everyone  Needs  a  Hometown  

  By  Jane  Gilgun    

Bridge  at  Lake  Harriet  Peace  Garden,  Minneapolis,  MN,  USA  


  he  TV  show  Cheers  was  a  hit  for  a  reason.  The  tagline  was  “where  everyone   knows  your  name.”  Everyone  needs  such  a  place.  For  me  as  a  child,  everyone   knew  my  name  in  my  neighborhood,  school,  and  church.  I  felt  known.  When  I   went  away  to  college,  I  began  to  feel  comfortable  when  other  people  knew  my  name   and  I  knew  theirs.  I  feel  comfortable  when  I  feel  known.  It’s  been  the  same  every   place  I  have  lived  since.  When  I  am  part  of  a  group  where  people  know  my  name,  I   am  comfortable.  When  I  am  in  a  group  where  people  may  know  my  name  but  do  not   seem  to  know  me  or  care  to  know  me,  I  am  uncomfortable.     I’ve  been  thinking  about  this  for  a  while.  A  few  weeks  ago,  I  heard  on  Facebook  from   someone  I  didn’t  know.  She  had  an  unusual  last  name.  I  thought  she  had  to  be   related  to  the  family  of  that  name  whom  I  knew  in  my  hometown  of  Peace  Dale,  RI.  I   asked  her  whether  she  were  related.  I  told  her  that  the  mother  of  that  family  was  a   good  friend  of  my  mother’s.    They  went  shopping  together  every  Saturday  for  years.   They  went  to  bingo.     Hearing  from  her  triggered  memories  of  that  family,  not  only  distant  but  recent   memories  of  how  kind  and  open  and  welcoming  they  were.  How  they  respected   other  people.  The  sons  of  my  mother’s  friend  are  Pete  and  Mike  (not  their  real   names.).  Everyone  knows  Pete  and  Mike.  They  are  at  the  bowling  alley  every  day  for   coffee  and  a  chat.  The  bowling  alley  is  the  town  meeting  place.    They  fix  the  flagpole   in  the  town's  roundabout.  They  give  old  people  rides  back  and  forth  to  church.   When  they  talk  to  people,  they  are  right  there,  present  and  attentive.     I  then  thought  of  the  various  “hometowns”  where  I  have  a  place.  Feeling  known,   appreciated,  part  of  something,  and  tolerated  and  even  loved  for  my  imperfections   are  present  in  each  of  my  hometowns.  In  one  of  them,  competition  and  living  up  to   standards  are  the  price  of  belonging.  There,  appreciation  and  tolerance  are   sometimes  absent  but  subtle  resentment  is  present.  In  general,  even  there,  people   know  each  other’s  names.  That  counts.  In  one  other  hometown,  the  values  are  


 others.  They  too  latched  onto  beliefs  that  its  ok  and  even  commendable  to  do   whatever  they  want  regardless  of  what  happens  to  others  as  a  result.  and  do   whatever  it  takes  to  satisfy  the  self.  Thus.   everyone  knows  each  other’s  names.     People  who  commit  violence  are  in  a  vortex  of  a  black  hole  where  there  is  only  them   and  belief  systems  that  tell  them  to  take  what  they  want.  and   God.  They  latched  on  the   beliefs  that  it’s  okay  to  do  whatever  you  want  regardless  of  consequences.  there.       Many  have  been  treated  badly  and  have  had  wretched  lives.  We  agree  to  this  to  the  extent  that  this  is  possible  for  each  of  us.  to  be  selfish.     My  interview  research  on  violence  teaches  me  how  important  hometowns  are.  certainly  no  different  from  most  other   people.     We  who  belong  to  hometowns  where  everyone  knows  our  names  could  think  about   how  to  make  our  own  places  even  more  of  a  hometown  for  ourselves  and  others.  We  could  think  of  new  ways  of  being  present  and   attentive.explicit.   .  We  could  also  think  together  about  what  to  do  about  people  who  don’t   have  hometowns  and  other  people  don’t  know  their  names.  There  we  are  called  to  think  about  our  actions  and  to  love  self.  Some   have  not  had  especially  wretched  lives.   People  who  act  out  in  violent  ways  rarely  feel  as  if  anyone  knows  their  names  nor  do   they  think  about  most  of  the  consequences  of  their  actions  when  they  are  violent.  We   can  do  even  more  acts  of  welcome.

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