Monday, March 14, 2011
The House Where a Home Used to Be
We picked up the trash in the yard, some of which had been there for a long time and some of which had been recently discarded by vagrants and trespassers.
We cut back dozens and dozens of plants and trees and vines, some of which were clearly in the past very nice and will no doubt, once they recover from their severe pruning, be beautiful again.
We collected and discarded items that were lying around the yard, items ranging from a tomato plant cage to a hydraulic car jack.
We dismantled and threw away the old doghouse and the food and water bowls that were inside the very small pen in the backyard.
We collected and disposed of all of the old toys that we found on the ground outside the dilapidated storage shed.
In short, we picked up and raked up and broke up and cut down and threw out and disposed of and piled up the sad and lonely remnants of the lives that once were lived in that house and in that yard.
It didn’t take a lot of imagination to picture another beautiful Saturday like the one on which we were cutting down and picking up and throwing away, only in our imaginations much different activity was taking place on that other Saturday.
On that Saturday, Mama was in the kitchen baking a pie while Daddy was in the back yard grilling hamburgers.
The children were running around the yard, hollering and laughing and kicking up dust and playing with their brightly colored if well-worn toys; the dog, enjoying her release from her small pen, was running and barking and playing alongside and among the children.
On that other Saturday, life was being lived and celebrated; on that other Saturday, lives were being built and hope was being practiced; on that other Saturday, that house was hosting a home.
What happened? I don’t know. I do know that there is no family there now. I wonder what happened to the Mama and the Daddy and the children. I wonder if their hopes and dreams went the way the house went, if they were over time left untended and uncared for until finally they fell prey to dilapidation and decay and despair.
I hope not. I’m afraid so.
I do know that the house has been condemned and is destined to be torn down. I fear the family’s demise preceded that of the house.
It takes a lot of work to keep a house healthy and in good shape; it takes even more work to keep a home, to keep a family, healthy and in good shape. It’s not terribly surprising when a family runs low on and even out of the energy and stamina and hope required to keep things going and developing—it’s not terribly surprising, but it is terribly sad.
It is sad to think of family that once lived in that house, a family that perhaps once provided community to a small group of people.
Our efforts to clean up the yard and particularly to prune the overgrown trees and shrubs may have interfered with a community of vagrants and drug users who congregated and found sad fellowship in the shelter offered by the yard’s shadows, shadows that are no longer available.
I'm not sorry for that interference but I am reminded that people will find community wherever they can and wherever they must.
There is hope to be had, though.
We who were cutting and cleaning and discarding what we found all around that abandoned and condemned house were doing so as part of an effort of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia known as March Mission Madness; some 200 youth and their adult chaperones descended on our town of Fitzgerald and found community as they worked to improve our community through such projects as the one I have described here.
Next door to the dilapidated and littered place that we worked to clean up, our group was also working on a house being built by our local Habitat for Humanity chapter, a house that will allow a hard-working family to get out of their substandard housing and into a simple and decent residence.
Perhaps not too far in the future that abandoned house next door will be torn down and Habitat can build another good home for another good family on that site.
It will be a very, very good thing if before too long the houses on that street once again produce the sights, sounds, and smells of families building their lives and practicing hope.
That would help to assuage my grief over the house where a home used to be.