by Chad Mathews

My Grandfather, Carl, spent a lifetime building walls. My uncle, Royce, followed in his footsteps. Between them, I imagine they’ve wrangled armies of bricks and blocks and stones. I spent a few weeks one summer laboring for Grandpa when I was 16 or so. I hauled every brick, shoveled every grain of sand, wheel-barrowed every drop of mortar (spilled half of it though.)

It was one house.

Four walls, a porch, a chimney, it was barely a stroke on the Masters canvas. It was a special experience though. I felt it, even then. And now that a few years have gotten past, now that house is everything.

Those bricks are more than the sum of their parts. To me those four walls equal more than a single family house on a random corner in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

To me they mean Hope.

Yes, they offer shelter from the elements. Of course they represent safety and security from threat. But they also hold within, the possibility of prosperity. They offer an opportunity for growth, a space for family to take root and thrive.

I’ve never known who lived in that house. My sincerest hope is that it became their Home.

Call me sentimental. I’m good with that. I’m proud of it. But when I look back at that experience I can see that those aren’t the only walls I’ve built over the years. Sadly, many of them offer nothing. I built them out of pride and out of fear. I built them to shelter myself from failure and ridicule. I built them to silence the world outside. I built them out of harsh words and anger, out of judgement and jealousy.

I built them to keep you out.

These cold, ugly, windowless, door-less structures serve no purpose. But I built ’em… Just me, one mean brick at a time.

My guess is, you have too.

I still drive by that house sometimes. Still looks great nearly 30 years on. Yet another testament to the old man’s mastery of his craft.

Maybe I’ll drive by again soon.

Maybe I’ll start tearing down some of those other walls.

Maybe you’ll help. Maybe we’ll help each other. Maybe we’ll build something different out of those mean bricks. Something better. Something we can all be proud of.

A Home… I Hope.