I recently came across a brief reflection I wrote before I had a blog. I’ve taken it and updated it a bit. It was prompted by some changes in my neighborhood, but at root is really about deeper things. – BK
Tonight I sit and ponder the demolition of the house across the street. It was a very old house. Probably about 80-90 years old. It was sort of dumpy and begrudgingly I admit that it was probably a good decision to tear it down. But along with the house came down some majestic old trees that defined our neighborhood. Those trees will be missed. And the house had been inhabited by people who had been really nice to us during our twelve plus years on Saint Peter Street. Many warm and positive memories with our neighbors in that place.
As I look at the outline of the remaining pile of rubble in the distance, I can’t help but think about how hard it is to build things and how very easy it is to tear them down. That house took two dozen men more than a year to build in the late 1920s. They worked day after day after day. We’ve had a lot of construction in our neighbhood in the past ten years. My family is used to watching houses go up slowly. Today, a six month construction job seems so slow – imagine one year! If we were able to go back in time and watch the process of this particular house being built, we would have noticed that at the end of any given day’s work, nothing looked too dramatically different than at the beginning. Measuring. Cutting. Framing. Plumbing. Plastering. Woodwork. It required a lot of tiny steps that added up over a very long period of time.
Today, almost the whole thing came down in a single afternoon.
One guy with a backhoe did most of the work. I watched with fascination as he leveled it. It’s far more interesting to watch a demolition than a construction. Isn’t that why our culture is addicted to watching and reading the news? Dramatic headlines chronicle the never ending stream of scandals, failures, and falls from grace. Demolitions of buildings, people, acheivements, or institutions are swift, loud, dramatic, and often irreversible. Construction, on the other hand, is slow and quiet, a bit tenuous, often imperceptible. But construction is the real achievement. It requires far more skill and effort and commitment and time.
Along these lines, today I spoke with an old friend. It was perhaps the most heartwrenching conversation I have ever had. He is trying to survive an almost unimaginable darkness brought on by a loved one rejecting and abandoning him. Despite his suffering, he continues to desire to be able to love the person who also brutally betrayed him. But that person currently has no interest in the pain these actions have caused for anyone else. As he spoke, the quality of his words were both sublimely beautiful and hauntingly despondent. He wants to undo the demolition of this relationship, to beg this person to return to their previous state of love. But the painful fact is that the demolition is complete. You can’t put a house together once it lies in a trash heap of a million pieces. He knows that it is far too late to save what they had. Now all he can do is hope for some kind of remote chance to begin to build it again.
It takes effort to build and it’s so so easy to destroy.
There is a lesson here. Think for a moment about how extremely powerful you actually are. You and I have the power to lift up or destroy. We have the power to plunge the people in our lives into darkness or elevate them into joy. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier to do the former than the latter. If I am honest, I have to admit that I can easily be upset by the people I encounter everyday. I can also be encouraged, but that’s doesn’t seem to happen as often. I think most of us are like that.
Recently a friend brought over a thank you gift to the Side of the House. It was several copies of this poem by John Hall:
At Days End
Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
The day is almost over, and its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?
Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that’s slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother of the many that passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said;
Does the man whose hopes were fading, now with courage look ahead?
Did you waste the day, or lose it? Was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness, or a scar of discontent?
As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that God might say,
“You have earned a blessed tomorrow by the work you did today?”
The question we must all ask ourselves is “Who do you want to be?”
I want to be a builder, even if it takes every ounce of my blood to be one. The world needs more builders and fewer demolitionists. More laborers and fewer cynics.