A home away from home

When you’re a college student, Easter brunch often consists of cafeteria-cooked cheeseburger macaroni with some plastic grass garnish on the side.

That, at least, was my go-to option during the four years when I lived a plane ride away from my immediate family.

Luckily, I had a lifeboat in the world of makeshift college brunches: Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge.

For Easter, they’d welcome me into their home in the Chicago suburbs, nearly three hours away from my Wisconsin college.

The setup seemed like a convenient way to get out of my dorm for a weekend, a welcome departure from sharing living space with a roommate and her boyfriend.

It was so much more than that.

Annually, Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge cleared their schedules entirely for me Easter weekend.

These were relatives I saw once a year — at best — prior to my college venture into the Midwest.

You couldn’t tell it from the Easters we shared.

They planned special meals. Let me operate the remote control. Surprised me with an Easter basket packed with chocolates.

In the evenings, they’d patiently sit and listen to the pieces I rehearsed for my competitive speech team.

At times this process required nearly an hour of undivided attention.

That’s more than what the average girl gets out of her boyfriend on a good day.

Every year, Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge delivered, opening their home and hearts to give me a weekend that boldly defied the monotony of college life.

They taught me a lesson I still attach to Easter: the importance of extending invitations to provide sanctuary, rather than mere shelter.

Yes, Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge were my family, and families are supposed to love you.

But too often, between reorganizing guest bedrooms and making sure our breakfast quiche serves six, we miss the special value that comes with letting someone into our private living quarters.

So I challenge you to use this Easter to be someone’s sanctuary.

Create a place that makes it impossible for guests to return to the doldrums of torn sweatshirts and pajama pants.

Just like Uncle Tom and Aunt Marge did for me.

Their home wasn’t an exotic getaway or a pampering retreat. Even in spring, it was often surrounded by the Midwest’s signature lingering snow.

But each year, I left feeling renewed, refreshed and rejuvenated.

Making it a little easier to stomach that good old cheeseburger macaroni.

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