I bought a house today. My agent was my friend Laurie. I met Laurie ten years ago at a long-defunct bar called The Lab. It was a bar in Over the Rhine and being just a few years out from the riots, having four people there on a weeknight meant the place was poppin’. I was recently out of a poorly-considered reunion with an ex and Laurie was annoyed enough with men in general to lend a sympathetic ear to my story of mid-20s love gone wrong (or rather, was never love in the first place).
Over the years, that barstool friendship evolved across husbands and boyfriends, jobs and different jobs, debauchery of youth and the circle back to good conversation over a few beers. After referring a few friends to her real estate agent services, I got serious about buying my own place. And when I finally found The House of Dale, I wrote the following heartfelt letter in hopes of swaying the sellers with my earnest declaration of emotions (it turns out all I had to do was want to buy it rather than rent it, but who knew?):
Dear Brad and Angelina*,
Attached is my purchase offer for the home on Pennsylvania Avenue*. I also wanted to share what has led me to this place.
I never thought I’d be able to own my own home. After unemployment left our family leaving Detroit unexpectedly when I was 14 years old, we moved to a small town in Ohio, renting a house from my sister and brother-in-law. My parents still rent that tiny house, 22 years later. After three years of dorm living, I started 18 years of renting. Mostly apartments, a couple houses, usually alone, sometimes with roommates. I thought my “property” ownership would be limited to my car and a square foot of an island off the coast of Maine (life is weird).
A year ago, I got a new job. Previous obstacles to my gainful employment, mostly health-related, had diminished to a point where I could consider what had seemed impossible: home ownership. This not merely a purchase for me; even the mortgage pales in comparison to the true meaning of this contract: security and a willing responsibility to the commitment of providing my life’s sanctuary.
I love this house. It’s a place where I can feel at the home for the first time since we drove away from our house in Detroit 22 years ago. Any dollars and cents in this contract is eclipsed by the heart I offer for my American Dream come true.
Thank you for considering my offer in its entirety.
Brad and Angelina didn’t give a shit about my heartfelt letter. They are business people who flip houses for a living. If they gave a shit about my heartfelt letter, they wouldn’t be good at their jobs. It’s okay. I still got the house.
But those words are still true. This hasn’t been so much a financial transaction as the fulfillment of a dream deferred. A home is security. A home is safety. A home is where you have the liberty to wear robes all the time and eat cookies and pizza for breakfast and enjoy privacy for multi-flush poops. You can play music loud and take long showers (but please be responsible in your water use). A place to lay your head is what keeps you going when you’re out in the world, with its unpredictability and disapproval of robe-only ensembles.
When weather is bad, we want to be at home. When we’re sick, we want to be at home. When we’re tired, or scared, or stuck in traffic – especially when we’re stuck in traffic – we want to be at home.
The refugees of Syria, of Sudan, of Afghanistan, of dozens of countries where unspeakable abuse – trafficking, child soldiers, pirating, blatant violence – has driven its people to flee with only the clothes on their backs, risking their lives and the lives of their children, are looking for homes. They are looking for the most basic of necessities – shelter. They are looking for the most essential of liberties – safety. They are looking for the most sacred of blessings – serenity in the comfort of a home.
Any refugee seeking asylum could have written that heartfelt letter. The refugees who are being turned away, who are dying – quite literally – in their efforts to find a home, are being turned back to nothing. Their home is gone. When refugees are turned away, we – the countries that are homes by the very nature our liberty – not only deny them the dignity of acceptance but we shirk our responsibility to care for our neighbor. Their blood is on our hands because we refuse to shield them from the sword.
When we turn away refugees, we. are. Assholes. As my mom said about the sellers after reading my heartfelt letter, “If that doesn’t make them want you to have the home, they are heartless awful people, and I’m sure that isn’t the case.”
Many Americans just celebrated Christmas (and/or the War on Christmas). We are told There is a Reason for the Season. That reason started with a young couple looking, if only for the night, a home. Somewhere safe to bring their child into the world. Somewhere that if say, a deranged king was trying to hunt down and kill their child, they would be secure against the danger. The really Christian thing to do is to help people who are looking for home – a safe place to birth their child, a land where their lives are no longer in daily danger, an urban bungalow for robe-wearing. The Christians would want those refugees to have a home. Because they aren’t heartless awful people. Mom is sure that isn’t the case.
*Names have been changed