Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A New Beginning

Today, my wife and I reached an agreement to purchase a house. We are buying the home for my wife’s parents to live in.

My in-laws got married 51 years ago and have lived in the same house for every one of those 51 years. The historic Northeast area of Kansas City was once a lovely neighborhood of homes, schools and businesses. They raised six children in that small house and have hosted many a holiday get-together, many times with as many as 50 people crammed into the house. It has been a wonderful home for them.

Over the last 10 years or so, the neighborhood has gone through a transition. The older folks who raised their families there have either moved out or passed on. Those moving in are largely Mexican or Vietnamese, and a lot of the business nearby do not speak English. It's difficult for a couple who are in their 70's to feel comfortable.

Crime is also becoming a problem in the area. The main street that runs through the area has become known as a hangout for prostitutes.

Still, my in-laws have wanted to remain in their home. But over the last year, they have been burglarized 3 times. We’ve been very fortunate that the burglaries have occurred when they were not at home, but the pain and frustration has grown with each incident.

My wife and I have for a long time been wondering if there was a way to move them out of the neighborhood. They’ve owned their own small business for years and have made just enough money to get by. They have not had the luxury of being able to put money away for their retirement, yet they were able to raise their children and send them to Catholic schools and to college, if they desired. They’ve had their house paid off for 20 years and they could not possibly take on a new house payment.

In the meantime, my wife and I have lived very well. We both are lucky to have good careers that provide us with plenty of income for our family. We’ve tried to be smart about saving for our retirement and our children’s college. We’ve also spent plenty of money on ourselves.

I recently read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” a book in which Lewis attempts to describe what Christianity is all about. In one chapter, Lewis describes charity. He suggested that charity does not mean just giving a few extra bucks to the less fortunate. Rather, charity should be something that forces you to suffer in some way in order to help others. For a long time, our charity hadn’t reached that level.

We finally decided it was time to devote some of our good fortune to help someone in need. We worked through our budget and determined that we could indeed buy another house to let her parents live in, but that it would be difficult to adjust our own lifestyle to accommodate it. We are determined to make that sacrifice. We set out in search of a nice ranch-style home in a good neighborhood.

We found such a house and will close on it in a few weeks. It is an exciting time as they begin sorting through 50+ years of memories to box them up and move them. Here’s hoping that new memories can be forged in a new house.

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