What is wrong?

I went out to run an errand in the middle of the afternoon yesterday. It was a beautiful day and before I put the car in gear, I rolled down the driver’s window. My car is old and doesn’t have a thermometer as most modern cars do, but I could tell that it was really nice. My car had been sitting in the sun and was uncomfortably warm inside. As I drove across town, I started to be stuck by how few cars had their windows down. I began to count. Less than 1 in 10 cars had its windows down. I drove by a sign that reported that the temperature was 68 degrees. I felt like asking, “What is wrong with you people?” I rolled down the rest of the windows in my car.

I know that spring has been tempting us to succumb to spring fever around here. We’ve had snowfall once or twice a week to remind us that it can still get cold and nasty outside, but we get a few days with nice weather that are really pleasant. Despite the winter storm warning that has been issued for Friday, Tuesday was lovely. The snow is almost all melted from our lawn. The deer are finding some new shoots in the grass. There are isis poking up from the dirt in the flower beds. The seasons are changing. Even if we do get a really big blizzard, the snow will quickly melt. Yesterday was definitely the kind of day that invites me to drive out to the lake to see how much ice is left.

It seemed sad to me that 90% of the folk around me didn’t seem to notice how wonderful it was, or if they did, they chose not to allow themselves to enjoy it. I know that some of them had cars that were as warmed by the sun as mine. They must have been running their air conditioners, which seems sad when the weather outside is the perfect temperature.

I have enjoyed living in South Dakota. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived any place else in my life. The people are wonderful. But there are times when I can’t help thinking, “What is wrong with you people?”

I got home in time to prepare supper and as soon as I got to the house, I opened up some windows to let the wonderful outside air inside the house. Things freshen up when we are able to open the windows. We live in a pine forest. You don’t need air fresheners when the outside air is fresh. While I was waiting for a few things to bake in the oven, I went out onto my front porch in the very early evening light. It was so beautiful. I looked up and down the street. There wasn’t a child in sight. We have neighbors with plenty of children. We worry sometimes because they play in the street. We caution all of our visitors to be cautions to protect the children from harm. But there were no children outside in that beautiful evening weather. The school busses had deposited them hours earlier. I don’t know if they were doing homework or eating supper, but it was strange. I do know that the children in our community are over scheduled. They have school sports and community sports and music and dance and theatre and are signed up for program after program. They don’t have much time for free play. It is so different than the world in which I grew up, where we had school, homework, and we spent as much time outdoors as we possibly could, with our parents calling us in to go to bed.

I wanted to ask, “What is wrong with you people? Don’t you know that kids belong outside with enough free time to allow their imaginations to soar?”

These aren’t strangers. They are my neighbors.

W have a very strong Habitat for Humanity affiliate in our community. I’ve been involved in it for as long as I’ve lived here. I’ve served on its board of directors, volunteered for building, and served on committees. Our church has sponsored multiple houses. But the cost of land and construction is driving the cost of Habitat Houses up. The home we are working on with Habitat for this summer is projected to cost $156,000. Even with the interest free loan spread out over 20 years, that makes the principal payment over $600 a month. Add in taxes and insurance and the house payment approaches $1,000. With some houses in our market selling for half of that cost, it means that it would be less expensive to keep existing houses and develop an interest-free scheme for financing them than it costs to build new houses. But that isn’t Habitat’s way of doing business. And families won’t qualify for conventional mortgages. So we have houses on the market that won’t sell, and some are being torn down for new development, while our community lacks affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity homes may no longer be affordable homes soon. It makes me wonder, “Whats wrong with you people?”

Or “What’s wrong with us people?”

We have the intelligence and the resources to solve the housing problems of many of the people in our community. The Habitat for Humanity model is part of that solution, but not all of it. We have the skills and resources to make existing homes into simple, decent and safe housing for families, but we seem to lack the will to use multiple approaches to this complex problem.

Maybe it takes one more blizzard to get us to appreciate spring weather.

I’m not sure what it takes for us to see the opportunities we have to work together to solve the housing crisis in our town. We know that stable housing results in lower consumption of health care and better performance in school. We know that stable housing is a good investment for the entire community. We can solve this problem.

What is wrong with us?

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!