Being married to someone who comes from a different country than my own and living in a foreign country has made me acutely aware of the “need” for roots. Whenever I discuss with others the idea of moving with my family back to the states, where I come from, or to a third country that neither I nor my wife comes from there are always someone who question the wisdom of that. “But your children need roots!” they would exclaim. I would be doing my children a huge disservice if I uprooted them.
Having been challenged with this self-evident truth on numerous occasions has prompted me to reflect and question if this truth really is self-evident. Do we need roots? Are we plants; trees in need of a deep, thick root structure in order to weather life’s storms? Perhaps there is some truth in using a tree as the main metaphor for explaining the development of a human being. Or, could there be another other metaphor I could use?
I grew up in a military family. My dad was stationed in a number of places in my growing up years. In other words, I had no place to really call home, a place where my roots could have time to grow deep and strong. I was uprooted constantly. If the analogy of my life is a tree then I have nothing to help me when the blistering winds, ice, sleet and rain buffet me. But, imagine that I am not a tree, but rather a ship. Ships don’t need roots. That would be foolish. Ships need ballast, a weight in the bow that helps them remain stable and afloat in the wildest gales. My ballast comes not from growing up in one stable place, but rather from the love, care and discipline I received from my family. I had a mom and dad whom I knew loved me and wanted my best, who taught me virtues like honesty, courage, grace and perseverance. And it was virtues like these that became stable weights in the bow of my ship enabling me to maintain balance regardless of where I happened to be living.
So, roots may be good for some, but perhaps it is possible to look at our lives not as trees, but ships that need to have ballast put in them in order to weather life’s storms.