It has been unusually warm in Chicago these past few days, and I have taken the opportunity to take a run through my neighborhood in shorts and a t-shirt, an unexpected winter treat.
I noticed yesterday, toward the end of my run, some carpenters on a work site for a new house. From the street, it looked like the beginning of a puzzle. The foundation was set, and the back wall was up. The smell of wood filled the air. But the rest of the project looked like scattered two-by-fours, plywood sheets and tools strewn in the dirt. I couldn't imagine how they were going to be able to take that apparently haphazard collection of material, follow a set of plans, and actually create something that looks like a home.
It struck me that these guys carry such a big responsibility. Because a family will live here soon.
That was yesterday.
So, when I ran by today, I was shocked to see, on that very site, a house. An actual house. I stopped in awe at the progress they had made, overnight. It wasn't complete, of course. But I could see the bones of it. I could envision rooms: a kitchen, a dining room, bedrooms, a family just getting started. I could picture a newborn baby keeping her parents up in the middle of the night, pacing back and forth. I could hear discussions and arguments and laughter. I could picture joyful Christmas mornings. Traditions will be born here. New life will be nurtured. Accomplishments of all types will be celebrated.
It's a good sight, a house being built. Looks like hope.
A man walked by as I stood there. And I said to him, "I was just by here yesterday. It's unbelievable how quickly they can build a house."
"It is," he replied. "But that's nothing compared to how fast they tore the old one down, the one that stood right there. Just minutes."
I can't get his words out of my head.
Because he got me thinking about that old house, the memories it carried, the families it held. When that old house was built, a lifetime ago, someone likely passed by and saw hope.
Because a house looks so strong, so solid, so protective.
But, like the man said, a house can be destroyed in minutes, leaving no trace.
Families are similar to houses in so many ways. Families are home. Families can be so very strong. Family provides the lens through which we see the world. Through family, we find our identities.
But families can be destroyed too, just like that. Family is fragile.
And like the builders of that house, family is an awesome responsibility. When we are young, we rely on the strength of family just as readily as we depend on the strength of the walls of our homes.
And sometimes, we are cavalier about that responsibility. Sometimes, we parents allow the wounds from a different house, and an ancient time, to infiltrate our home and our children, our emotional toxins embedding in the walls. So we are short of temper. We don't listen. We press for perfection, our children props like manicured lawns buoying our delicate egos.
You can feel it, can't you, when you cross a threshold? The stress, the anxiety. The best of furnishings cannot mask the feeling.
Just as easily, with a little insight, and consideration of that responsibility, you can also feel how organic it is to create a home filled with peace, and love, and acceptance. This would be a perfect time of year to set that intention, or to re-set it.
As I stood before that new house today, I found myself filled with hope, hope that lightness and joy fills those rooms. And I pictured adult sons and daughters driving by, decades from now, revisiting their past.
I hope they smile.