For over twenty years, I have passed the same small, single family home on the way to and from my workplace. The neighborhood is decidedly that of the working poor. It is gang infested, with police helicopters overhead and patrol cars cruising the streets. Men sit on stoops in the middle of the day, sometimes yelling curses at each other. Crowded apartment houses and numerous churches of varying denominations sit cheek to jowl next to ethnic restaurants, check cashing establishments, and the ubiquitous liquor stores.
These sights are certainly familiar to us from either personal experience or the TV and movie versions of such places. What, then, makes this one house so interesting? The answer is, simply, the garage.
This garage is attached to the house and is accessible to the nearby roadway at the end of a short driveway. The white door itself is neither unusual nor remarkable.
On many days vandals have left their ugly scrawls painted or otherwise inscribed on that door. But even this isn’t what is notable about this door. Graffiti is simply another hallmark of this area.
What is unusual is the obvious tenacity of the residents of this home. They do not allow the coded language of the gang subculture remain on that door for more than a few days. Soon after the tagging appears, it is gone.
While it is possible that city workers come by and remove the graffiti, it seems unlikely, as all the other graffiti in the neighborhood remains. The disappearance of the messages is due to the insistence of the family living in the house. They return their garage door to its pristine state as often as is necessary.
Despite repeated vandalism, these folks continue to live in that house. Each time the door is attacked they respond with cleaning solutions and a new layer of white paint.
Is their struggle pointless?
After all, we have been told that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Maybe they are being foolish in their insistence on maintaining their property.
I don’t see it that way.
I do not know the people who live there. Yet I suspect that they do not see themselves as victims – of poverty, of bad neighbors, or of circumstances beyond their control.
To me, this family is asserting their right to live where they choose and how they choose. Whether by choice or circumstance, they remain in that house, in that neighborhood and face this daunting struggle on a weekly, even daily, basis.
In this family’s neighborhood, EBT cards (the current equivalent of food stamps) are the common currency. People choose federally sponsored (so-called) section 8 housing because it is more expedient. The social network is too often built upon government handouts and goodies. This is part of the landscape of the “47 percent”.
Yet here is one family that shows a measure of independence and self-reliance in a place where these qualities are sorely lacking.
Right now we are all focused on the upcoming elections. The choice between Obama and Romney is, in large measure, a choice between ever expanding government and the attempt to downsize it as much as possible.
For government to get smaller, individuals will need to step up and take more responsibility for their lives. The truly poor do need a safety net comprised of friends and neighbors, churches and soup kitchens, and yes, occasionally government assistance .
But nothing is a substitute for the gumption and desire of individuals to succeed on their own.
On some level, the family in that house seems to be doing just that. By their efforts, they are likely achieving what no government handout or grant can give them – a sense of dignity and pride .
There is no need to complete a federally paid for and supervised survey to determine the attitude of this family. Their values and goals can be readily measured by driving by their house each day and looking at that garage door.
True grit still exists in this country and, hopefully, this family is only one among many families that quietly exhibit it each day.
COPYRIGHT 2013 PETER BERNARD/CREATORS.COM
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