The House

A Modern Parable

Once upon a time a family built a house. They spent a lot of time and money creating the best home they could. They hired engineers to make it safe and run entirely on solar energy. They hired architects to give it a stylish look including lots of plants and a garden. There was even a playroom in the basement for the children. It was a room that attracted kids from all over the neighborhood. And the house was happy.

The family lived in the house for many, many years, creating lots of memories and stories together. The house was full of music and laughter and love. It even won some awards and had its picture in Beautiful Home magazine. In the summer the house was covered with flowers, and at Christmas it sparkled with lights and decorations. The house was the family’s pride and joy. And the house was content.

Over the years there were several earthquakes and floods and even a tornado, but the house kept standing. And yet it wasn’t perfect. When the roof got old, it had to be fixed. And some of the windows and lights were eventually replaced with more modern, energy-efficient ones. But it was a good house, and the family never thought about moving to a different one. And the house loved the family.

Then one day another earthquake hit—a BIG one!—and something terrible happened. While everything was shaking, a wall in the playroom crumbled and landed on two neighborhood children. They survived, thank goodness, but had scars on them for the rest of their lives. Even after the earthquake was over, the house trembled. It felt really sorry. It never meant to hurt anyone.

Because the house had injured those two kids, the police came and ordered everyone out, even the family. The police said the house wasn’t safe, and they built a big fence around it. A judge put a sign on the fence that said: “No one is allowed in this house for 28 years!” The family was shocked! They cried and asked, “28 years? Why so long?” But the judge just walked away. The house was sad and lonely.

Sometimes the family would visit the house and look at it through the fence. It looked so different now sitting there empty. There was no more laughter to be heard. After a while, the judge allowed the grown-ups to go inside the fence and up to the house to water the flowers, but they weren’t allowed to go inside the house. And the children had to stay back behind the fence.

The kids asked, “Why can’t we go in?”
The judge responded, “Because it was kids that the house hurt in the first place.”
“But that was in the basement during the earthquake,” the kids said. “The flowers aren’t going to hurt us.”
“Sorry, kids. Those are the rules.”
The house looked at the kids and tried to smile.

As the family talked among themselves and with their friends, they realized that something was very wrong about the whole situation. For one thing, another house across town had completely fallen down in the same earthquake and killed someone. And yet the sign on the fence around that house said it wasn’t to be touched for 12 years. Why 12 years when someone dies and 28 years when two people get hurt? Who makes up these rules?

For another thing, the family knew that in other countries like Sweden and Denmark, when a house has a dangerous problem, the family only has to leave for a short time while the house is inspected by engineers. Then, if the problem is only a small one—like this house—the family can move back in while the damaged part is being repaired. It didn’t make any sense to abandon the house and leave it sitting behind a fence for all those years. How would it get fixed? Who would keep it from falling apart even more during all that time?

The family just wanted their house back so they could get started on the repairs, but the judge wouldn’t let them. The family knew that the kitchen still worked perfectly, and that the bedrooms and garage were in great shape. All of the furniture was fine, and the garden, when they left, had lots of flowers. Only the playroom had problems, and that was just with one wall. The rest of the room was OK.

Why couldn’t they block off the playroom for a while as they rebuilt the bad wall? Why couldn’t the family live in the rest of the house while the repairs were going on? They would even be happy to help with the repairs! What good did it do to just leave the house sitting there empty behind that fence for 28 years?

Who will tell the judge that he’s making a big mistake? Who will show him there’s a better way?
The house is still waiting behind that fence for someone to come and fix it.

© 2017 Jon Andreas. All rights reserved. Written September 2012, edited in 2017.