We have loved living in this house, but for some reason I didn’t realize how much I’d loved it until I started seeing blank spots on walls where pictures had once been.
It’s not as true here in Kenbridge as in other places we’ve lived, but in general people place a lot of stock in how others perceive their homes. How big is the house? How’s the landscaping? How clean is it? What paint colors? What kind of tile in the bathroom? What brand of furniture? How tidy are things? What kinds of paintings do you have on the walls?
How much does it matter?
A few years ago we had the chance to lead a team to Louisiana for a week of post-Katrina cleanup and rebuilding. I’d seen pictures of the damage on TV and the internet, but even these did not prepare me for the things we saw while we were down there. I had a lingering question in my mind that a friend had posed to me back home: Why are these people rebuilding here? Why start a new home when you know it will eventually be blown away by another hurricane?
I didn’t understand until one evening after work, when we got back to the little FEMA trailer we were staying in. While others took first showers, I wandered onto the nearby property and began looking at a devastated house. It caught my attention when I saw yard toys in the tall grass – some toys that were exactly the same as the ones my girls had at home. I ducked through crushed doorways, past walls that ended at the sky. And as I found my way into the once-spacious living room, I finally understood. There on the mantle were pictures, still in frames. A framed certificate leaned against the wall, a rusted nail above the only indication it had ever been anywhere else. A pile of toys sat in the corner, topped by a doll that was covered with a year’s worth of dirt and dust.
At that moment, I wanted to rebuild that house, board-by-board, brick-by-brick – even if a hurricane was coming the next week. I could almost feel the memories within those crumbling walls… almost feel the sense of utter desolation at what had been lost. And I could understand the hope that these battered people had, despite the tangible things they’d lost.
A house is four walls with doors and windows. A home is built with something else entirely. A house stays behind when you move. A home can move with you.