Root bound: the unintended consequences when roots stay put.

As someone who grew up without deep roots, I’m always fascinated to get a glimpse into how the other half (so to speak) grew up.

I recently got to make a trip “back home” with a friend of mine whose roots run deep in Mississippi. As life would have it, my own roots had tickled Mississippi soil a few times in my younger years and getting to see the mighty and muddy Mississippi River again was a lot like reuniting with an old friend.

One thing about having deep roots that I’ve noticed: it’s hard to change.

I think it’s a lot like those plants that you buy from places that don’t sell a lot of plants (like a hardware store or something) and you bring the plant home and realize it’s been in its small pot for too long. The roots have tried so hard to grow and spread out and push deep, but they ran out of room. So, they just wrap around each other and run in circles and twist themselves into knots. They are root bound.

I think that happens sometimes with people. I see it in small towns. People get painted with a brush. Maybe it’s the brush of a rebellious youth, or the brush of hanging out with the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s the brush of addiction or failure or lackluster achievement. Maybe it isn’t even their brush at all that they were painted with… maybe they got painted with their parents’ brush or even their grandparents’.

Their extended family, the community, the town – everyone has already made up their minds about that individual based on those brush strokes of a past from which they are never allowed to escape.

Much like that potted plant, try as they might to break free from the confines of their environment, they are not allowed to grow, to change, to mature, to move on.

Maybe they work hard to overcome an addiction. But those roots… everyone has seen them, everyone knows how low they fell, everyone knows “it’s only a matter of time”. Everyone puts him back in his pot… everyone paints him with the same ol’ brush yet again.

Some people are able to break open their pots, finding the freedom to grow and mature and change while staying rooted where they are; but I think those people are rare.

Some people find that it’s just best to be transplanted elsewhere. They need fresh soil, open minds, a clean slate to fully move into the life they want to inhabit.


What is home?

I was watching some competition show the other day (on Food network no doubt) and when asked how he might spend his winnings, one of the contestants said that he and his wife would use it as a down payment on a house because his son was six years old and wanted a place to call “home”.

During all of my growing up years, my parents did not own the house we lived in – there was even a time when we lived in a travel trailer (which they did own) – and I never once felt like I was deprived of “home”.

“Home” was the place where I played and fought and laughed with my siblings.

“Home” was the place where I brought stray kitties that soon became beloved household pets.

“Home” was where my parents read to me, played with me, sometimes spanked or disciplined me, and tucked me safely into bed at night.

“Home” was where my family gathered every day for meals, daily devotions, board games, card games, and other activities that brought us together.

“Home” was where I learned to do chores (or to get out of them).

“Home” is where I learned to cook by hanging out in the kitchen with mom and watching her turn random ingredients into meals for her family.

“Home” is where I learned to swing a hammer, turn a screw and know the difference between pliers and a wrench by “helping” my dad with minor repairs and fixes around the house.

“Home” is where I learned to share, how to win (or somewhat gracefully lose) an argument. It’s where I learned about negotiation, extortion, and the unconditional love of a sibling!

“Home” is where I learned to read and where I learned to love to read.

“Home” is where I knew that no matter how messy things got, there was always love to be found.

Owning a house is nice, but you don’t have to own a house, or even live in a house, to have a “HOME”. “Home” is where you feel safe, where you find love, where you learn and grow, “home” really is where your heart is.