Life as a house
[This is a post by my good friend Adri-Marie]
Every developer and estate agent will tell you: House buying is all about location, location, location. I couldn’t agree more. Having just moved into my first own(ed) house in Cosmo City Ext.8, I’m already experiencing my location doing a work in me. The area I stay in is especially developed for 1st time home-owners and is integrated with the low-cost housing of Cosmo City. My bedroom window looks out on the RDP housing and Itsoseng (an informal settlement that will eventually also get low-cost housing). Every morning as I rise and draw the curtains to let in the warm SA sunshine, my view brings a liberating light to my potentially selfish soul. It reminds me that I have been given the gift of stewardship. It reminds me that God loves all of humanity and loves it when we love each economically-, culturally- and religiously different/same ‘other’. I truly mean that it brings light. We become free when we can part from our possessions, share what we have and make our circle bigger. We become free when our gratitude grows into maturity through tangible generous living.
What is it like to stay in Cosmo City? It’s joyfully wonderful. Kids play in the street, there are not a lot of fences and people greet each other. Most of my neighbours have beautiful, tender stories to tell about how their dreams came true of owning a house or how they’re the first in generations of their families to own a house. The dignity and privilege of ownership is visible and often reminds me of Genesis 1.
The process that led up to owning a house was quite a rollercoaster one for me. Up & down I considered stewardship, rootedness, mobility, wealth, equality and the dreams I had as a little girl. Ownership wasn’t the issue, but ‘settling down’ was. As a witness to the lives of Joburg-citizens, I’m petrified of a life that’s burdened down by mortgage payments, private property philosophy, fear and postponed dreams. It seems to me that those who own more, fear more. I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself in holding on to the belief that ‘What I have, has been given’, that I’m merely a steward. (I’m still not so sure, but I’m confident that my location might help me with this). I didn’t earn my education, cultural background, family and intellect. I was a beneficiary, and have now been given a lifelong mission to share what I’ve been graciously given. I want to embrace this reality and the joyful opportunity it offers.
During the house-buying process, I had to attend a ‘1st time home-owners’ class. Being the only white person on the block, I’ve never in my life been so aware of how important 1st impressions are. Since then, the awareness hasn’t stopped. The day I’ve been handed my house-keys , the developer asked if I’ve bought a house for my maid. Since then I’ve been asked similar questions about this ‘maid’. This obviously brings me great delight to tell my community that I’m their neighbour and that I will be the maid of the house. I’ve been curious to know if I might be staying in the same street than some of my other friends’ garden/house staff though ☺. To add to the confusion, Doc Mabila, my previous house-mate (30 year old ex pro-footballer who works with my friend Schalk), has moved with me, so I look forward to all the funny gossip stories this will bring. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ gets a new meaning if you’re the neighbour that’s hoping for the acceptance in an environment where, historically or through personal Apartheid stories, people have good reasons not to trust you.
Owning a house is teaching me how to ask for help. Every day a different handyman knocks on the door offering welding, building or carpenter-skills. (I’m tempted to make an artwork out of their business cards.) The youth I work with has been life-savers, a lot of them have plenty of handy-man skills or contacts and have come to my rescue. Their lives tell stories of survival, and therefore many have acquired multiple skills in order to get piece jobs and feed their families. Who knew that I know so little of so many things . I’m totally hopeless in helping myself with most of the things required: How do I make a garden? How to put in a floor? Hanging stuff, Etc ,etc, etc! It feels like I’ve been hi-jacked by an insecure, indecisive, overwhelmed version of me. It’s been a great ego-busting experience thus far! I’m surprised at how difficult it is for me to ask for help and to receive it. I’ve identified a pride that I don’t like, and how I control relationships by being the ‘giver’. In receiving I make myself vulnerable and allow love to enter. This is community, and I have a lot to learn and unlearn. My location will be the best teacher I can ask for.
To God, I ask for His prophetic imagination. I dream of making my home a house of healing, exposure and reconciliation. I dream of having a playground for the kids on the block and a community vegetable garden in my back yard. I dream of community, and I ask for the courage to live consciously and intentionally to make these dreams a reality. For anyone who’s currently feeling ‘stuck’, I would recommend looking at their location. Where and with whom you spend your time will shape your being. Simple. True. Be brave, and change it. Move if you have to. God has a soft place for the broken, if you want Him, that’s where to look.
My dad passed away 10 years ago, and this has been a time where I’ve missed his presence deeply: helping me decide, putting in skirtings, giving me a bear hug, etc. A few months after his death, we sold our big house in Ruimsig and my mom built herself a beautiful smaller house. She handpicked everything… I remember that this process was a lot like the movie “Life as a House”. Building a house was part of her healing, part of her new beginning. I have a similar sentiment when it comes to this precious new house of mine. I have a beautiful opportunity to build a new Life. God has been writing a story for 31 years in me… perhaps just laying a foundation. Now He’s continuing the story of Beauty and Justice through using a house in a specific location. This will be a building process to help align my beliefs with my life, in a new location that will provide opportunity for reconciliation, love of ‘others’ and befriending the poor.
Mi Casa Su Casa,
My house is your house
My house is Your house
Home is where the heart is
Make my heart Your home
Make Your home in me