As I sat in the bustling Dublin Airport, I noticed an elderly American man who had a profound sadness in his eyes. He was visiting Ireland for perhaps the last time, reconnecting with his ancestral homeland. Yet despite being in the country of his heritage, he seemed filled with grief and longing.
This man reminded me of the many people exiled from their homes around the world. Whether due to war, poverty, discrimination, or other circumstances beyond their control, they are displaced from the places and communities that shaped their identities.
Just like this elderly man cannot reclaim the Ireland of his past, exiles cannot find true home again in their lands of birth. Too much has changed, too much time has passed. The sense of belonging evaporates when your family, friends, language, and culture are gone. The place remains, but it is no longer home.
For exiled people, home becomes a memory, a dream, or even a myth. It lives in idealised stories told to children before bed, the spices and flavors of food, the melodies of old songs. Though they may pass on traditions, history, and heritage to future generations, the lived experience of home is lost to them forever.
This grief of losing one’s home permeates all aspects of life in exile. There is a constant sense of being torn between two worlds, neither of which feels completely right. Elements of their homeland persist, while assimilation into new cultures often remains incomplete.
Just like this man returning to America, exiles are often caught straddling two countries. Their hearts remain back home, pulsing with nostalgia and loss. But new roots have grown in foreign lands where children are born, jobs are held, and lives rebuilt.
But the longing for home never fully goes away. For exiles, home is where they have built a new life out of hardship and hope. Home is family and friends who share this experience of displacement. Home is the strength to move forward while honouring what was left behind. For though exile separates many from home, it cannot take away the resilience and spirit that make people human. For all left Ireland and who now make Ireland their new home.
We lift up all those who find themselves far from home, separated from loved ones, in a strange place. Though the road ahead seems uncertain, remind them that you walk beside them always. May your spirit give them strength for the journey, and fill their hearts with hope. Help them to see your presence in the kindness of strangers and feel your love in the beauty of creation wherever they go. Give them courage to build community wherever they are and let your light guide their steps until the day they are reunited with those they love.
Remember, wherever they go, home lives within us all.