After living for 31 years in the home where we raised our children, my husband and I recently moved into another house. Those of you who know us well will affirm that Dan had “improved” just about every square foot of our old house and yard. Over the years he had remodeled, redecorated, reconstructed, rejuvenated, repaired, or replaced just about everything on the property. We both worried that because he had invested so much time and work there, he would miss the place. I asked him the other day if that was the case. (He was in the process of unloading cement blocks for a landscaping project in our “new” yard.) He said, “No. I don’t really miss it. Home is . . . well, where you fix things.”
That phrase will probably not “catch on” as other “home is where” statements have in the past: Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where your heart is. Home is where you go and they have to take you in. Nonetheless, in more ways than one, Dan’s definition is a true one.
Every homeowner knows that maintaining a house is a never-ending job. There is always something to do. Shingles blow off, septic tanks fill up, shrubs take over house fronts, driveways crack, fences sag, floors creak, and electrical wiring gets old and dangerous. At any point in time, the responsible homeowner will be finishing one project, working on two others, and planning at least one more. He or she knows that a neglected home deteriorates quickly.
Home is also where other, more important repairs are made. Relationships are mended. Bad attitudes are adjusted. Broken hearts are patched up. Common courtesies are polished, and principles such as respectability and integrity are kept in good working order. Good habits are not allowed to get rusty, and trash is quickly identified and removed, whether it is on the floor or on the television or computer screen.
Many of us feel overwhelmed with this sick, out-of-kilter world we have inherited. We feel powerless to make a difference; the damage is too widespread. The sad truth is that much of what is broken in our world must be repaired and then maintained in individual homes. Every terrorist, every rapist, every self-indulgent tyrant grew up somewhere, probably in a home that was poorly maintained. Take a look around your house. Do you see signs of deterioration? What needs to be fixed?