There is a house on 8th street which is very special to me. It was the very first house I was invited to dinner in when we moved to this little college town ten years ago. It was the house where I got involved with College Life, the ministry I served with until my children were born. It was the house where I made many precious friends.
The pastor who lived there moved away and sold that house over 7 years ago. But the house is still very special to me, even though I haven’t ever met the owner, and I haven’t set foot in their home in as long.
I first loved the house because of the warm community I met indoors there. But now, I love the house because of the community the owner has created outdoors. They have put in an exquisite garden, and in honor of our cycling community they mounted bicycle sculptures as decorations on their fence, and painted them beautiful colors. In the spring, there are flowers blooming from the baskets on those pastel pedalled-pedestals. They are beautiful: a celebration of the fun of living in a biking town.
But mostly, I love the community the owners have created by choosing to fly a different flag from their flag pole every day. They must have over a hundred, and every time I drive past, I see a vibrant, visual salute to somewhere far away: someone else’s country, someone else’s homeland, and as an immigrant living in this city I call home – it makes me feel at home like nothing else does. We’re in the USA, but the world out there is honored, named, recognized, celebrated. Last week, I choked up when I drove by and realized they were flying the South African flag at half mast in honor of Nelson Mandela. My home country’s flag in a suburban American garden brought a release of tears I had been holding onto for days.
The vast variety of flags also make me realize how weak my Geography is, since I recognize only a small fraction of those flapping flags. I guess I must not have been the only one, because some time after the owners began hoisting flags, they added a small white board posted at the base of the flag pole, letting passers by know which country’s pride is being celebrated that day. Maybe one too many curious people knocked on their door and they needed to make a plan…
And so I’m learning about the world. Thanks to the flag house, I would have an answer if I find myself in a grueling round of “Who wants to be a millionaire” and were faced with the question: “Which of these is not a real country?”
a. French Guiana
b. British Indonesia
c. French Polynesia
d. British Virgin Isles
I would have had to avail myself of the 50/50 lifeline, eliminating the French options, but then – thanks to the Flag House displaying this flag last week – would have known that the British Virgin Isles WERE in fact a real country, making the answer b: British Indonesia. (Random aside: the wiki article on British Indonesia is very entertaining.)
I love that house. It epitomizes so much of what I hope for in our home: a place welcoming, respectful, international, creative and fun. It is a landmark in our community. It is a beacon in our city.
This is my salute to the Flag House. Thank you for all you bring to our community.