Finding Beauty When My Fence Came Down

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There is a fence that surrounds my house. As a little girl I dreamed I would grow up and have a white picket fence around my house. I have the fence, but with its missing and leaning slats, it isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

After a challenging week, I decided a good form of therapy might be taking a hammer and fixing my fence. With my box of nails and hammer in hand I was ready to go. I straightened up the first piece that had fallen over, put my nail in the hole, and took a good swing. I have to confess it was a little empowering and healing to hit the nail. Problem is that as soon as I did that, another slat a little bit further down popped off. I sat down in the grass and huffed with frustration. Why does my life seem like that fence? As soon as I get one part of it fixed, another piece of it seems to fall apart. Some young men from a church stopped by and asked if they could help fix it. Little did I know the blessings that would come from my fence falling apart.

There is a boy who lives in the apartments across the street. I have seen him periodically through the gaps of the fence. As we started to remove one board after another, I could see him standing there watching us. We took a break to have some lunch and one of the guys hollered over to him and invited him to eat with us. The boy walked over and slowly over the food and fellowship he started to talk about his life just across the street. He has four brothers and sisters and they all live together in a small place. My son shared with him that he knew what it was like to be crowded and cramped with a ton of siblings. As the boy was leaving, I handed him a plate of brownies to take home to his family. I told him to come back any time. Before he crossed the street, he turned and waved. To think I would have never met that young man if my fence had not fallen apart.

There is a woman who lives behind me. The fence separates our property. I have spoken to her in passing and waved from across the fence, but that is it. Not to long after the old fence was down, she came to me in the open space where the divider had stood. We talked fences and property lines and slowly both of our own walls came down. She told me about her grown children and how excited she was that they would be home for the holiday. Events in her life have made the moments with them even more precious than she ever imagined. Her son was working in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. She watched the events unfold on television and for hours could not get in touch with him. He finally called to tell her he had gotten out safely. Ten years later as she was telling me the story, I could still hear the pain of a mother who thought she had lost her child. I cannot even imagine the pain and crippling fear she must have felt while she waited to hear if her son was safe. When she finished her story we both stood there with tears in our eyes. Since there was no fence between us, I hugged her. I had no idea that such a strong and amazing woman with such a story lived right behind me.

The fence is back up around my house, but I will never let it get in the way of seeing what is just beyond it. I once had dreams of the perfect white picket fence. I never imagined that someday I would be so thankful for the blessings that came from it falling down.

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