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In Search of Welcome

by Charles E. Rice

cades cove barn.jpg

Poets, psychologists, novelists and such have written of the difficulty of "going back home." I have several times driven up old Peachtree St. and looked at my ridge and at the acre of ground where I came of age. Each time I didn't linger. Nor did I weep.


When we look homeward, we are looking for an old "warm morning heater" on a cold day. We are looking for a place where folks will let us alone after a day's hassle with people who won't. We are looking for someone who will hear us after others have said "shut up." We are looking for a place where we can weep when we are hurting and laugh when we are happy. We are looking for a place where we are "welcome," in season, and out.


The place of welcome is portable, elusive and holy. But it is always home. Every person seeks it for self. The only thing better than finding it is providing it, now and then, for the other pilgrim. When we momentarily give welcome to another, we taste the welcome we ran home to on cold or lonely nights.


Over the years friendships are made of welcomes to and fro. The closest friends are those—though years separate—who give and receive the welcome which none others can contrive or deny. Across time and space such friendships are the old home-place.


My Peachtree Street and my Ridge have grown through the years. But they have not and cannot become large places or multitudes. They must remain somewhat isolated, even proud places. And I must never take them, or welcome, as prizes I have won.


Born in the John Ross House in Rossville, Georgia, Charles Rice lived most of his boyhood at the foot of Missionary Ridge on the Tennessee-Georgia state line. (For two years during World War II, he lived in the then-secret town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father was employed as a laborer at the Y-12 nuclear plant.) He served as both an ordained Methodist minister (1951-1958) and Episcopal Priest (1959-1986) during his storied career as a clergyman, theologian, writer, and teacher. His academic trail includes degrees from the University of Chattanooga, Emory University, Drew University, and the University of the South. The author of The View from My Ridge, he has had numerous essays and articles published in regional and national publications.

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