I like this house. So clean and pretty, with simple lines and strong colors, tucked back in some trees with a lovely brown Pit/Lab named Rosie at the gate. This house has stood on this spot, in the same family, for over a hundred years while weathering storms, droughts, economic blight and more with grace. The owners and neighbors are proud to have it with them.
This one sits on a similar corner ten miles away, but it is burning to the ground today as a fire training exercise at the behest of its owner. It is a similar age with much the same ownership and experiences, but it has been a rental property. Many have moved through its doors, but never has it been loved. The neighbors have been trying to get it removed for years. Finally death has arrived, and it is a celebration: the firefighters are getting a playday, the neighbors are celebrating victory, and the church next door is barbecuing burgers for the crowd.
So what’s the difference? What’s inside. The investment. Daily attention to details that compound over years. The love that’s been poured in to make one a beautiful home while the other became an eyesore. Nurturing – of the outside facade, but also to what’s inside. Not that an dilapidated rental house can’t hold the dreams and aspirations of a treasured child within its walls, but usually something changes when that is the case. Love will shine out the windows and begin to be shown in little details outside as well. The care that is apparent outside is a reflection of the devotion to what’s inside. Houses are a pretty honest estimation of who you are. They take serious work, are not easily exchanged when abused, and it’s readily apparent when you don’t care enough to mow the lawn.
Granted, we have to put on our own glasses of love to see clearly past the effects of money much of the time. Gardeners can keep our exterior beautiful, just as that amazing dress from Nordy’s would make even a hooker look like a lady. But whether it is the physical dwelling we’re referring to or the tent of humanity we wear, the analogy is the same. We’ve all met very poor, work-worn people whose eyes sparkle – people who’ve been wrung to their last drop and still have more to give. Mother Theresa comes to mind. But the weariness that shows in even a wealthy man’s eyes when his lifeblood has been trodden underfoot sears the souls of those who take the time to notice. Everyone needs to be appreciated and to know it without a doubt. True love poured in will emanate out the windows and cracks like sunshine, lightening up every wrinkle and blemish until even the old man looks fresh and new. He will be useful and productive until the end. And neglect or disdain will dull the eyes of even the most promising child until he is jaded before his time. Both the house and the child lose some luster for lack of investment; purpose and vision are cut off.
Look around you today. Do you see proof of the statistics that 65% of Americans are obese and just know in your heart that it is their stupidity and laziness that made them that way? Do you fear the anger and apathy in your neighbor’s eyes when he actually meets your gaze? Have you grown so bitter you tell visitors that the world can go to hell in a handbasket, as long as it stays outside your fence? Or do you see those same scenes as the effects of wounds and scars on vulnerable souls much like your own, bearing up under inscrutable pain and trying to maintain what little self-respect is left? Life hands each one of us an incredible beating, albeit differently. Do we recognize those extra pounds as the result of too many desperate attempts to deaden a heart’s cry of pain with food? Can we dissolve anger and bitterness by validating the venom as the only remaining protection from further pain?
Dedicated work is required to bring back a house that has been abused or abandoned even a short while. What kind of house am I keeping for myself and those in my care? What kind of deposit can I make into those around me and into the future? How can I ever repay those precious souls who have invested in me, just because they love me?