Editor’s Desk

My backyard is not a public street

July 11, 2014 

The private street behind our house has a speed bump, and drivers of all ages using all modes of transportation sometimes swerve through our yard to skirt the so-called “traffic-calming device.”

Normally, this practice would not bother me, and the reasons are many. Perhaps most important, I am non-confrontational, a character trait born of witnessing too much conflict as a child, if you accept Freud’s argument that adult behaviors are shaped in childhood. Second, none of us really own the land we live on; we are but temporary stewards of our properties, which will live on much longer than us. Third, and most practically, until this year, the speed-bump avoidance had done nothing more than leave tire impressions in the grass in our yard.

But this winter was especially wet, and the in-our-yard traffic, some of it apparently heavy, left substantial ruts. They are so wide and so deep they make for better speed bumps than the speed bump; they’re also a pain in the butt to mow.

So to discourage drivers from riding through our yard and making the ruts worse, we placed three smaller but still substantial stones in the path of would-be speed bump avoiders. The other day, someone stole the rocks.

I’ll confess I did not see that coming, and part of me, the part that appreciates creative solutions to obstacles, applauds the ingenuity. But that part of me quickly gives way to the part angered by the total disrespect for my property.

My best guess is that the thief is a teenager; the quiet streets in our neighborhood are a beacon for young people honing their driving skills and passing their summer hours in golf carts. It’s my guess too that the thief is not a weakling; the stones weren’t exactly lightweight.

I’ll concede that the thief could be an adult, because adults can do incredibly stupid things. But it’s hard to imagine an adult neighbor, a fellow property owner, having such total disregard for another homeowner’s property.

So the rest of this piece is for the parents of that young person. Obviously, your child thinks my wife and I are jerks for placing obstacles in the path of his joy riding. I get that; I used to be a kid too, though truth be told, I would have had more fun racing over the speed bump than skirting around it. Perhaps your child is worried about damaging the golf cart you no doubt bought. If so, at least your child respects someone’s property.

Obviously, I don’t know who you are, or I would have been to your house already, and, in case you’re worried, I would have been there to talk, not do doughnuts in what I assume is a pristine yard free of ruts made by disrespectful traffic. And here’s what I would have said: I can only assume you tried to raise your child to be respectful of others and their property. Instead, you raised a thief; I hope you’re not proud.

Church-goers are fortunate

I have the occasional epiphany, not the kind that yields a life-altering invention or medical treatment, but the kind that teaches me a little about myself.

Recently, a good friend told me he had left his longtime church because it had moved too far left of center on a particular social issue. And it occurred to me – my epiphany – that church is largely a place for people who have already found faith, not for people in search of it. People of faith go to church – or to synagogue or mosque – in part because they want support and affirmation from like-minded believers as they grow deeper in faith.

But what about people in search of faith? Where do they go for support? (For searchers, affirmation, by definition, seems a little too much to ask for.)

A while back, I spent some time online reading about the major religions and the denominations within them; I suppose I was searching for a home. But in hindsight, I was destined to be disappointed because the organized religions are for people certain in their faith. For people like me, there is no Church of the Search, no Synagogue of Uncertainty, no Mosque of the Meandering.

In hindsight, the online reading was a fool’s errand, because for people on the journey to faith, searching for an organized religion is like trying to choose a hotel without knowing what city one is traveling to.

It’s not that I’m complaining. To me at least, faith is a very personal matter. As my wife and I entered the child-adoption process, we had to fill out some paperwork that asked us about our faith and religious affiliation. I wrote, “That’s none of your business,” which apparently didn’t hurt our chances, because that agency cleared us to be adoptive parents. Also, the search for faith, the journey itself, is useful for what I learn about myself along the way.

But I suspect many people like me would like some company along the way. Which is my way of saying I hope church-going folks know how fortunate they are to have a place to go where they can find literally kindred spirits.

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