by John Hedrick
I believe in three-sided houses.
In early 2004, my wife and I purchased our second home to keep pace with our growing family. It was a modest, three bedroom ranch with a large great room and a small back yard bordering the woods. During our first trip to the house after signing the papers, my then six-year-old daughter set off alone to explore the back yard. She returned a short time later, asking for some glue. When I asked her what it was for, she held up three small pieces of ragged particle board that she’d found behind the mini barn. Without hesitation, she cheerfully told me wanted to build a house.
My first impulse was to tell her she couldn’t build a house with three tiny scraps of broken wood and some glue. But when I looked into her trusting face, I couldn’t say ‘no’.
I found a bottle of white all-purpose construction glue in the box of tools I’d brought with me to do some minor work around the new house. I handed it to her and watched with a twinge of sadness as she eagerly rushed off to build her house.
Later, as my wife and I were mentally arranging our furniture in the empty rooms, my daughter came back. She held out her hand and proudly showed me what she’d made. Where my logical, rule-based mind had settled on a design requiring nails, four walls and a roof, she had simply glued two of the three pieces on top of the third in a tiny ‘A’ frame.
It was a perfect, three-sided house.
I kept that little house on a shelf in my den for a long time as a reminder not to underestimate someone else’s vision and creativity simply because I don’t see the possibilities myself. A few years ago, after our fourth child was born, we moved from our ranch home bordering the woods to a two-story house with mature trees at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Somehow during the move that small, three-sided house was broken. I gathered up the pieces and slipped them into a drawer for safe keeping. In the frenzy of unpacking, the pieces safely remained tucked away, forgotten, for several years.
I recently rediscovered them in the back corner of that drawer. I took them out and carefully placed them on the shelf above my desk. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to reassemble it. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how; it simply wasn’t mine to rebuild.
So, instead of rebuilding the little house my daughter built, I decided to do what I should have been doing all along: I’ve begun exploring my own unrealized potential to see how many of my own three-sided houses I can build.
Those three ragged pieces of wood are still on my shelf, today. Each time I see them, I’m reminded never to underestimate someone else’s ideas or potential.
Even if the pieces aren’t standing, thanks to my daughter they’ll always be a house to me.