Dorothy was young and sweet and far from home. But home wasn’t really home — it was far from what home ought to be. And maybe that’s why she had left and was so far from home.
One day she heard about someone who would take her home. People called him the Wizard. The songs he sang were sweet, and, when he sang about home, he made home sound sweet, too, like someplace you’d like to be with someone you’d like to be with. Dorothy liked hearing about home. She wanted to hear the song and hear the song until he would come and take her there, where everyone lived as a big family and loved one another.
Dorothy was wandering. And a lot of other people were wandering, too. They were all looking for the one who would give them what they desired. Dorothy wasn’t really sure what it was she desired. But lots of times when she was on the road she could see what other people needed. And she wished she had what they needed so that she could give it to them. Sometimes she would find herself with people who seemed to be made of straw, who hardly had a brain left. And sometimes she would find herself with people who seemed to be just a hollow shell, without a heart. And sometimes she would find herself with people who just didn’t have the courage to face the world the way it was. And sometimes she would find herself by herself and think that she wasn’t so young and sweet anymore.
But everybody said to follow the road: follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the road ... And there at the road’s end they would see him again, the Wizard — the one who could give them what they wanted. At least it felt like they were getting what they wanted.
But it wasn’t always easy to see the Wizard. The road that promised to be paved with gold was a lot like dirt and gravel and broken glass. And sometimes when they were just about to get in to see him, some guys in monkey suits would come along and grab them and keep them from getting in.
Dorothy’s life was full of dangers and disappointments. She went through times of deep depression and fear and times when she would cry and nobody would be there. But it was still a lot more real to her than what she had left behind. Somewhere, beyond the disappointments, he was there, waiting for her. If she could get to him, just get to the Wizard, he would take her cares and tears and times of fear and wash them all away. She just longed to hear the song again about someone who would take her home.
The Wizard would make it all worth while. He would make her feel mellow and kind and young and sweet, even though down deep inside she was starting to feel old and bitter. She never wanted to be old and bitter like the people she left behind at what used to be called home.
She didn’t even like to think about the hurts that she got hurt with along the road. And she certainly didn’t want to think about the hurts that she hurt others with. That’s what made her feel old and bitter like the ones she left behind. She heard one time that people always grew up to be just like the people they left behind. The thought haunted her. She never wanted to be like them. That’s why she left them behind. That’s why she was always on the road following the Wizard — because it seemed like, if anyone could help her to forget what home had been and help her to hope for what a real home could be, he could.
Even though the Wizard sang about home, his was much too small for all the people who needed one. And Dorothy’s home was just the different places she stopped at along the road. Really, home was just a feeling. A feeling of belonging, of being a part of something. But someday, maybe, home would be a place — a place to be planted, like a little lily rooted in the soil, drenched with the dew and warmed by the kind and faithful sun.
That’s how she felt whenever she stood before the Wizard and his voice echoed all around her. Just for a fleeting instant she would think that he had come to take her home, take them all home. Home — a place to belong. A place to be long — to be a long, long time. A place to be longed for. A place to be a part of something, no longer divided and lonely and wondering how you’re going to make it when this is all over. A place to experience the deep and soul-satisfying sense that you will never be abandoned, never be forsaken, always be carried along, even if you are too weak to make it on your own — now and forever a part of a family.
Yes, whenever he sang, Dorothy felt closer to what home was supposed to be than anything she had ever seen — a place where people seemed gentle and kind and full of love. But after a while the Wizard would have to go.
“Where’s the Wizard going?” Dorothy would ask someone. “Home, of course,” someone would reply, turning away from her.
“And where are you going?” Dorothy would ask the back of someone as he walked away.
“Home,” someone would say over his shoulder without turning around.
“And where am I going to go?” Dorothy would ask herself. But herself wouldn’t know what to say to her.
And just then someone else would come along and say to Dorothy, “Come along, we’re off to see the Wizard.” And she would link arms with this someone else and begin the dance all over again: follow, follow, follow, follow ....
And Dorothy would think as she danced along: “There’s no place like home ... There’s no place like home ... There’s no place ...” But surely there must be some place. A place to belong. A place that doesn’t vanish like smoke drifting away. A place that’s not just a fleeting thought or a passing fancy. A place that endures more than our emotions or our wishes. Something that’s greater than being enthralled by the Wizard. A place where the deep moral disorder inside of us can be healed.
Then one day it happened, just like everyone knew it would someday. Dorothy and her traveling companions came to see the Wizard, and he wasn’t there. The man at the gate tried to explain to them that they couldn’t come in. But Dorothy didn’t understand.
“Why can’t I go in?” She demanded.
“The Wizard isn’t here,” said the man.
“Where is he?”
“But when is he coming?” asked Dorothy, anxiously.
“He isn’t coming,” said the man. “He’s gone, I tell you!”
Still she didn’t understand. “But where? Where did he go?”
The man, obviously uncomfortable, removed his hat and said solemnly, “He has gone to his final home.”
Dorothy didn’t know why the man at the gate should be so gloomy about the Wizard going to a final home. It sounded pretty good to her — a final, permanent home, one that he would never have to leave. Maybe she could go there, too, she thought.
Pleadingly, she looked into the man’s eyes. “Can you tell me how to get there?”
The man’s face flushed, and he sputtered, “But — but you don’t know what you are asking! The Wizard is GONE! He is among the Dead!”
It still took Dorothy a moment before the full impact of what the man was saying hit her. Then her eyes widened in horror. A nameless fear gripped her. Her thoughts raced. Was this what it was all about? Was there no more to it than this? All the follow, follow, follow, following the Wizard only to end up like this — alone and without hope? Was this the meaning of the song? Was this all that home was? Who or what was it that was coming to take her home? Why was she suddenly afraid? She had hoped that home would be a place to be healed of the corruption that she saw inside of her. Did home mean nothing more than the place where corruption would finally overtake her completely?
The man at the gate turned away, powerless to help Dorothy in her distress. Dorothy turned to her traveling companions, who were walking away with their heads hung low. “Where are you going?” she called out to their backs.
“Home,” they said over their shoulders without turning around.
“And where am I going to go?” Dorothy asked herself. “Where am I going to go? Surely there must be a place — a place of healing, a place to belong.”