Summer is a time for many families to hit the road and explore America. Our family has had our share of the open road and interesting destinations this summer. I hope you have too. Early August is an especially popular time for many East Texans to seek refuge from the heat in the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the cooler temperatures of the Rocky Mountains. Along with summer excursions many families find time to travel home for a visit. I’m not talking about the home where you currently live, which may sometimes seem like the place you stay briefly to do laundry between summer camps and excursions. I’m talking about the home where you are from. In our very mobile society, we often find ourselves away from our home, sometimes for days, sometimes for years.

When you think about home, what images come to mind? I think about riding my bike in a great big circle around two rows of houses which were lined up back to back on adjoining streets in my old neighborhood. What made me think the most about home this summer? It was the funeral of one of those neighbors. The occasion was a bittersweet time to hug old friends and face one of life’s inevitabilities together.

In thinking about home I recalled the phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” I don’t know where I first or last heard this phrase, but researching it revealed a couple of interesting interpretations regarding this proverb which dates back, at least, to a Joseph C. Neal story in Graham’s Magazine in 1847. The first interpretation is “wherever our loved ones are, that is our home.” The buildings and communities may change as we each follow our own path in life, but wherever we are together with those we love, that is where we call home. This is the mobile definition of home that moves around with us and focuses on the affections of those who are most important to us.

The second interpretation is “Your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are.” This is the definition that focuses on a place. Perhaps that place is a place where you no longer live. Even if it has been many years since you have been to that place, it still serves as an anchor, holding firmly to your deepest affections. In the first interpretation, love makes us feel at home, while in the second, home makes us feel love.

I haven’t seen any statistics on how many people who live in Tyler actually grew up here, but I suspect the number is lower that you might think if you are not from here, and higher than you might think if you are from here. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I had the privilege to discuss home recently with a gentleman who was putting some estate plans in order. We talked about places he had lived and we talked about which place really means home. On the wall in my office is an enlarged map of the 32 East Texas counties which our organization serves. As we stood at the map and he pointed out where he had lived, you could tell in his voice and in his eyes which community held his heart. We also talked about challenges that may be facing his hometown and what his philanthropy might do to help the people living in that community address some of those challenges.

The 300 charitable funds at East Texas Communities Foundation all have a story of someone who set out to help others in the place they call home. Some people set up scholarship funds to encourage local students to pursue a degree or technical skill. Other individuals and organizations have created endowments to support local nonprofits, which were usually the vision and mission of a local individual or group. Still others have created permanent funds that can be used to meet the pressing needs of a specific community. Whether Tyler is the place you call home, or home is a place that is harder to find on the map, our staff would enjoy the chance to help you think through the charitable opportunities that can help make life better for people in your hometown. Perhaps establishing a fund for your home town is your next best opportunity to give well.