On Faith Feature: Finding Home
By Marek P. Zabriskie
My father was a corporate gypsy. So, we moved around a lot. I have lived in 11 states and 5 countries. When anyone asks where I’m from, I struggle to answer.
I attended Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. There was a lot of bullying there, and I was glad to move to Weston, Mass.
I fell in love with New England. I liked the people, playing soccer and the colorful fall foliage. I felt like I was finally home.
My parents bought a house overlooking the 18th fairway of the Golf Club. The fairway became an extension of our front yard.
Bill Bain, who started Bain Consulting, later bought our house and morphed it into a huge mansion. I did odd jobs for the Bains in high school, so I jokingly say that I was Bain Consulting’s youngest employee and reported directly to the CEO.
At the time, I was really fascinated by the military and dreamed of becoming a Green Beret. I listened countless times to Barry Sadler singing “The Ballad of the Green Berets.”
I had a buck knife and practiced throwing it at trees and making it stick. I figured that Green Berets needed to know this.
I also had a BB gun. One evening, I went out and practiced shooting from a distance at the windows on the side of our home and later a neighbor’s home high atop a hill.
At the sun dipped down, the only lights lit in windows were inside the Golf Club pro shop across from the 18th fairway. My parents had just become members of the country club.
I was a teenage knucklehead and was stupid enough to think that BBs bounced off glass surfaces. So, I sat in a grassy knoll and took target practice on the windows of the pro shop.
Unbeknown to me, the employees yelled, “We’re under fire. Duck!” Soon, an undercover police officer pulled into the parking lot. He jumped out of his car, wearing a leather jacket. He looked like Kojak, and surveyed the site to find the source of the gunfire.
There was only one place where a shooter could be concealed. It was the little cluster of trees where I was kneeling. So, I took off running with my BB gun across the fairway. The officer yelled to some high school students walking down the road, “Get the kid with the rifle.” They obliged, and I surrendered my BB gun.
He drove me home and delivered me to my parents and promised to check on me each week, but he never returned. That evening, my mother gave me a book called I’m OK, You’re OK. I promised to read it, but never did.
Weston is a lot like Greenwich. It’s the wealthiest town in the state and is full of successful people who live in big homes on big properties. It’s easy to be isolated and lonely there. There’s lots of beauty but it’s also town full of big issues stirring in people’s lives.
My best friend’s father ran a Fortune 400 company. He came home each night, fixed a few drinks, and his children had to carry him up to bed. His wife popped so many pills to keep calm that she looked like a zombie. That’s the kind of town it could also be.
When I was first approached by Christ Church Greenwich when they were looking for a new Rector, I thought, “I’m not so sure.” But then I met several church leaders. I was amazed at how nice and wonderful and spiritually hungry they were.
I thought to myself, “I can do this. In fact, I need to do this. I grew up in a town just like Greenwich, and I might know what makes it tick. This is a calling. They need me, and in many ways I need them. My skills and personal history match up with this opportunity and calling.”
I attended seminary in New Haven, and my mother lived for 25 years in picturesque Sharon, Connecticut. In many ways, coming to Greenwich was like coming home. I’m very glad to be here.
Returning to Connecticut reminds me of an old Jewish tale about a poor man who was tired of the corruption in his city, the despair, hatred and cynicism that he encountered daily. He was fed up with the injustice that his people experienced, the loneliness and isolated living.
His friends and family listened patiently as he spoke about his desire to find a city where justice was honored, people experienced wholeness, and there was a real community. Night after night, he dreamed of a city where heaven touched earth.
One day, he announced that he could wait no longer. He packed a meager meal, kissed his wife and children, and set out in the search of the magical city of his dreams.
He walked all day and just before the sunset, he found a place to sleep just off the road, near a forest. He ate his sandwich, said his prayers and smoothed the ground where he was to sleep.
Just before he went to sleep, he placed his shoes on the road, pointing in the direction where he would continue traveling the next day. That night, a sly fellow was walking the same path and discovered the traveler’s shoes. Unable to resist a practical joke, he turned the shoes around pointing them in the direction from which the man had just come.
Early the next morning, the man arose, said his prayers, ate what remained of his food, and began walking in the direction where his shoes were pointed. He journeyed all day long, and just before sunset he saw the heavenly city off in the distance.
It wasn’t as large as he had expected, and it looked strangely familiar. He entered a street that looked much like his own, knocked on a family door and was greeted by a family, who turned out to be his own family, and he lived happily ever after in the city of his dreams.
When we find a new home after a journey, it often feels familiar. When we find a faith community to join or a town to call our own, even if it’s brand new to us, when it’s right it often feels like we have been there before – just like we’ve finally come home.
By the Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie, Rector of Christ Church Greenwich