Close to my office, on my way home, is a little neighborhood of old, low-rent houses. They're tiny and old and just barely patched together enough to be better than a shed. A parade of tenants pass through the houses. Most of them have mean dogs and a lot of tattoos and old beater cars (which they park in such a way as to roll out of the car and straight into the house with the least effort, even if they're parking on what's left of the flower bed). Beer cans, Wal-Mart bags, chocolate milk jugs and cigarette wrappers start to litter the yard.
And then someone new will move in. A pot of flowers and a cute chair go out on the porch. Pumpkins decorate the house. The yard gets raked, they pick up their trash, the windows get washed and something about the whole neighborhood changes for the little while that the new tenant is there. It feels like a fresh breeze blew in and made the neighborhood sweet.
It's a little ragtag rental that whispers of a person with hope. Ambition. An appreciation for simple joys. And a desire to build the life they want.
It makes me think of my Grandparents. Grandma used to say, "Soap is cheap and water is free." Money and standards are not the same thing. Grandma and Grandpa had their share of very tough financial times. The hardships they endured were enough to make most of us throw up our hands and quit trying. They started over twice, in a way. The first after Holland was liberated from the Nazis and Rotterdam had to put herself back together. The second in moving to America, along with their two grown daughters and a surprise baby daughter. They had to find work, learn the language and build a new life here. Grandma had quite a few new starts of her own, after Grandpa died, and she never had much money.
But she always had standards. She always had hope. She would have been the one making a cheap rental into the best home she could manage.