Ruin and Redemption
Down the street from me is the neighborhood eyesore, an empty rental house. The simple Spanish tile ranch sits on almost an acre of land. Two back houses are rented out, but the front one has not had a tenant for five years.
At night, the prostitutes, the drinkers, the pot smokers, come here and throw their condoms, beer bottles and “medicinal” pot pill containers on the dried out grass.
Thick, dark, old oak trees provide shade and keep the street shrouded in darkness.
For years we have all complained. The owner was described to me as “white trash”, “crazy”, “indifferent” not communicating. She supposedly lived up in Santa Clarita and allegedly did not care about he neighborhood.
I took a visiting friend for a walk down Hamlin today, and we passed the neglected house. We turned up the dirt path that runs alongside the property and found a middle-aged woman inside a packed garage. Her stuffed old car was parked outside, and she was pouring insecticide into a plastic spray bottle.
She came out and introduced herself as the owner of the old house where nobody rents.
In gracious exhaustion, tired face, pretty blue eyes, weathered skin, she told us she was here in the raging heat, trying to kill weeds and clean up trash.
When I asked her what could be done, she told her tales of woe, so common and so cruel, the modern story of Southern California: unemployed husband, unscrupulous contractors, unpaid rent. She could not afford to hook up the house to electricity or connect it to water or gas. She had $700 in her bank account. She was hanging on, to a property she inherited, in the hope it might provide some security to her.
My friend had also lost his mother, his marriage, and his home in the past few years, no stranger to pain or economic catastrophe. But he saw clearer than the woman did, that her pain was avoidable, that she could sell and get out from under her crushing burden, rather than try and hang on to what was dying in the sun under her cracked feet.
How we live, under delusions and illusions, is the story of mankind. Whether in prayer, in love, or work, we live for the truth of a lie, believing our own imaginary tales and thereby setting up fairy tale endings while creating certain catastrophe.
We walked away from the woman who was much kinder than rumored. And she smiled and thanked us for listening to her story.