Jacki Murphy

Half-Heartedly Trying to be Famous on the Internet Since 1999

When You Don't Have a Local Station

I listen to a lot of NPR.

Or, I should clarify. These days, because I live on a ship, I listen to a lot of podcasts: This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Code Switch, etc. I'm never particularly up-to-date because I would never know when I had a good enough WiFi connection somewhere to download an episode.

Recently, however, I've found myself in possession of a fancy international data plan (bless you, T-Mobile), and I've discovered the wonder that is NPR One. I can listen all the time! In a timely manner! I get to listen to the programs I love, and discover new ones.

The weird bit was, though, when it asked me to set my local station. Technically I live in Massachusetts, so I chose Boston's WBUR. A man was very excitedly detailing the upcoming overhauls to Massachusetts toll roads, and I was saddened and a little horrified to realize the extent to which I did not care.

And I don't just mean that I don't care about toll roads (because who does, really?) but all the local news. I was completely disinterested in anything to do Massachusetts-centric news. But, if I don't care about Massachusetts local news... whose news do I care about?

My brothers live in New York City, and I love New York City... but it's not home. I spent 5 years in Moorhead, Minnesota... but it's not home. I lived in Harbin, China for a year - that's not home either. A brief stint in Salt Lake City left an incredible impression on my life, but that's not home. My boyfriend's family lives in the beautiful Penticton, British Columbia... but I don't even think they have news.

So while listening to some local news on NPR, I was hit with the staggering realization that there isn't really a place that I call home. There are places I love to visit with people I love in them. But if I close my eyes and think of "home", I don't see one place. I see many.

I don't think this is a bad thing: My heart isn't tied to one geographical place on this Earth - it's tied to many. Maybe not with the fervor that most people would feel towards their home, but, it's there. I care about lots of places and lots of people and understand that the world is so much bigger than one little town where I hang my metaphorical hat.

Is this what makes me empathize so much with people I've never met in countries I've never visited? Why I want so desperately to help the refugees and the impoverished and the marginalized?

Maybe. And maybe not. It was just a thought.

I've spent the past decade flitting from state to state and country to country, visiting over over 50 in the past five years. And somewhere along the way I seem to have lost a sense of "home", but gained a greater appreciation for humanity as a whole.

I don't claim to be a saint, and my concern for the less fortunate is more talk than action, but I do think that armchair humanitarianism is better than no humanitarianism at all.

Someday I'll have a place to call home again, and I'll once again be interested in the minutiae of local life. And I imagine that when that day comes, I will relish having a place to hang my metaphorical hat. I may even care about changes to toll roads.

But until that day comes?

I'm happy to have lost a sense of home and gained a fuller love for the whole world.

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