By Elizabeth James My daddy always told me not to stand behind someone who was about to cast their fishing line. He warned me that I could get “hooked like a fish.” I believed him with no reservation after a neighbor’s daughter stepped right on a hook laying by the lake. As a child, accidents like this became second nature to avoid. I imagined that just about everyone everywhere knew this. When you grow up in rural Appalachia, there are many commonly observed rules springing from practical wisdom. You inherently recognize that you come from some the toughest and most resourceful people in the country. I come from a place where you say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am,” and everyone speaks to you when you pass on the sidewalk, regardless of whether you know each other. My parents had me in church every Sunday, and we were first in line for Vacation Bible School in the summer time. Memories of running my fingers through the rough manes of the horses on my grandparents’ farm flood my mind when I think of growing up. No one had to make me play outside as a kid growing up in Appalachia. Something about the beauty of our surroundings drew me there. Dad took my family camping one year in Tennessee, and I can still feel the ice cold water running over my feet in the creek behind where we had set up camp. In winter, my sisters and I would fly down the biggest hill we could find behind my parent’s house. After the sledding was done, we would come inside to find hot cocoa made special by our mother. Lexington, Kentucky may as well have been New York City, compared to my small hometown of London. Following trips to the much larger city 70 miles north, I always told mom that I wished I lived in a bigger place. As I grow older, though, I realize that the warmth and comfort of my childhood home can never be duplicated, no matter how far from there life takes me. The fresh smell of my mother’s immaculately clean house and the sound of her piano playing will be with me always. Even throughout college I felt a sense of safety and love the moment I exited the interstate and headed to my parents’ home. My home. Growing up in a small town in rural Appalachia meant that while I knew how to enjoy a sunset on a farm, or the taste of good cookin’, I also knew that in the hills and on back roads of my beloved home there also existed some harsh realities. I was not blind to the fractured families, broken state of some housing, and the people struggling to get by that were a part of my hometown. As I grew up, I began to understand more deeply my responsibility to my home, to my community, and to my neighbors. When I learned about Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) I was ecstatic to find a place where I could not only use my talents and feel fulfilled in my work, but also a place that provides resources and opportunities to people--people whose home is also my home. Recently, the Donor Relations Team (of which I am a member) reached out to many friends of CAP to ask a rather profound question: “Where is home to you?” For so many people, home is the place where their parents raised them, or the town where they learned to ride a bike, or where they met the love of their life. Home can be the taste of mom’s cooking, the memories of putting up Christmas decorations with family, or the crisp chill of Friday night football games in the fall. As I talked with folks about what they associated with home, I began to reflect on everything that represents home to me. To me, home is the time my mother, younger sister, and I got trapped by a cow that blocked the road to my grandparents’ farm. We laughed so hard we cried! Home is the big old white house with the giant windows where my dad played hide and seek with my sisters and me. Home is the feeling I get when I walk into my parent’s home and just feel at ease. No matter how warm these feelings, however, there has always been something bittersweet about my sense of home. No home is perfect or without its own struggles and challenges. I can’t ignore the hardships faced by others in my hometown or the harsh realities of my region. But this is the thing about home: home is always worth the effort, worth the heartache, and worth the work it requires to make it better. When I began working at Christian Appalachian Project a few months ago, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of pride. I am proud of my work (and the work of CAP) to meet the needs of my neighbors. I am proud of the resilience and resourcefulness of my people. I am proud of the warmth and beauty of Appalachia. I am proud of my home. My home, like yours, is and always will be worthy of my work and service, simply because it’s home.