This has been a year of rentals. Country rentals well outside of town…houses with stories to tell and no one to tell them to. Houses that were once full of pride, but now slump down into the ground, worn and tired from misuse.
Their occupants left the house not at all like they found it. They left it with broken window panes, with holes in the walls, with “FU” carved into the window trim, with a pile of garbage that had been accumulating for months in the backyard, with walls so filthy that their children had drawn pictures in the dirt on the wall.
Standing in their doorways, wandering their halls, I am always weighed down by an anger and a sadness. Anger, because the occupants have shown little respect for anything and little concern for anyone but themselves (Why deal with your own filth and refuse when you could leave it behind you for someone else to take care of?). Sadness, because I can often see what the house once was…a home that its owners were proud of.
I have always liked the history of things and the people behind them…many of whom have passed long ago. This, my father taught me. It was he who pointed out the numbers etched into the barn cement and shared with me what he knew of the history of our farm before he owned it. It was he who pointed out the work that would have gone into building this porch or that hay wagon (“See? Someone built this themselves. Someone welded all these pieces together. They put a lot of work into this.”) He taught me to respect the land and the buildings that call it home…and the people who built them who I will never meet. He taught me to recognize that every place has a story, and that I am just one short chapter in it.
So I suppose that is why, when I look at a house, I see not only what it is, but what it used to be. There are little details in many of the rental houses that let me see that someone was once proud of this house…that they poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it…that they loved it. And so, when I go into a house and see that it has been treated with complete indifference where it was once treated with love, I am sad.
The Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Not caring leads to, and spreads, many of the world’s greatest troubles. And indifference is something that is inside all of us…there are some who can say that they harbor no hate in their hearts, but who can say that they harbor no indifference? No one.
And perhaps that is why the rentals sadden me so…
because I see in them yet another piece of love that has been taken away and swallowed in indifference.