Monday, September 1, 2014
For quite some time, we had been wanting to get a Silo. You know, those cool metal buildings that farmers and ranchers have, usually to store grain? Yup, those. I have been seeing some really cool ways that people use them on Pinterest and I had great plans for one in our yard. We searched for a long time and finally found one on Craigslist that was a thousand dollars and we bit the bullet and purchased it. Greg and the boys spent an entire day helping to take it apart from the nice farmer and load it up and bring it to our house. We chose a spot in the back corner of our side yard, next to our little mini-orchard of apple trees. The kids spent at least two more days assembling the silo, it was a LOT of work. Did I mention what hard workers my kids are? That is one thing that I am very grateful for. I know that Greg is the impetus behind most of their character building when it comes to a work ethic, and that is one of the reasons that I was drawn to him in the first place. But I digress...
So, once it was all assembled in our little corner, it was a happy place. The purpose would not be to store grain, but rather to use as a mini shed, to store our lawnmowers, etc. And the children also would play in there, and it was even used one night for a 'campout'.
Suddenly one day, a man showed up on my front door steps. He was from the County Planning and Zoning commission and asked me what the silo was for. I told him it was to be used as a storage shed. He told me that I needed to come in and get it approved and pay for the zoning permit. I was a bit surprised by his visit, but we of course complied. When Greg and I went in, he admitted that the only reason that he stopped by was due to a complaint from a neighbor about the silo. This was disheartening to say the least. After visiting with him for a little bit, we began to realize that there were many many other 'infractions' or 'violations' of the county codes going on in our neighborhood. When we asked him about it, he admitted to us that "most people just go ahead and put in a little shed or do such and such and never even come and get zoning permits, but that they don't have time to go door to door and enforce it, so they really only ever investigate if someone sends them a complaint."
Feelings in my heart ranged from anger to sadness to frustration about it. Part of me wanted to turn around right then and turn in all of the rest of the people in our neighborhood who were 'getting away' with whatever. Part of me wanted to know exactly who had called and complained about our silo, just so that I would know who to avoid in the future, or who to confront about it if I ever got the courage up. However, after seeing the stress this induced in my pacifist husband, I decided to just ignore the feelings of anger or trying to find out who did it, and to just comply and pay the fees and move on with our lives and adjust our plans.
We paid the $90 fee and got the zoning permit in place and we were all legit and good to go. Then, one day about a week or so after all that, my kids went out to grab the mail, and there was an anonymous note left in my mailbox that said, "Silo must go. Neighbors complaining." I was just so taken back by it all. It was like a gut-punch to receive that kind of 'threat' after all we had just gone through, paying the fees and everything. This too brought an increased measure of stress to Greg, and I hated to see that. After much reflection, he decided that as sad as this would be, he would simply sell it and let it go and move on.
Because that is the type of good man that he is.
I was still wanting to stick to my guns since we were all legit and everything. There is no acting board or HOA for our neighborhood, so there was nobody to go to for a vote or anything. And now we had obtained the proper paperwork and permit, etc. The obvious reason for people complaining is that they simply didn't like the look of it. That is it.
Then, a few weeks later, a woman who lives in our neighborhood, but whom I have never met before, shows up at my door with a slip of paper, inviting us to a neighborhood meeting to 'discuss the importance of maintaining the values of our homes and the possibility of starting up an HOA to enforce covenants, etc.' This was crazy. This, to me, is the very definition of 'adult bullying' if ever there were one. Luckily for any and all of my neighborhood silo haters, we had already sold the silo to someone on Craigslist. The children were a bit confused as to why we had spent all the money and hard labor in the first place, only to be so quickly removing it and getting rid of it. The kids spent more days of their time taking it all down. It is interesting to me to note that my children also experienced a measure of this 'anonymous bullying' and went through various stages of confusion and anger themselves. These are the kinds of things that stick with children, that shapes their views, that likely influence them when they begin to model adult behaviors.
Here is what I wanted to yell at the person or people who started this whole mess: "You know what? If you had not been a coward, and told us from the very beginning straight to our faces, that you hated it and would fight it no matter if we were legal to have it or not, you could have saved us a big headache and $90. That amount of money could have paid for school lunches for my children for like at least ten days! Also - I am not sure if you realized this or not, but the whole reason that we live in this neighborhood is because we are in the 'country'. If you look about 200 yards to the north of my house, you will see horses and pasture. If you go about a block away from our neighborhood, it is all country houses and farms and there are many silos all around!"
Here are a few of the questions that were brought into my mind after going through this experience:
Why do people feel like they have the right to bring others down? Why don't people stop judging others based solely on what their home looks like? Do people really feel like they are 'better than' those neighbors of theirs down the road who may have a less appealing facade to their homes, but are still hard working families, just because they have fancy homes and expensive toys in their yards? Does anyone care about the value of hard work anymore? Does anyone care about what is going on in the raising of the children in their neighborhoods? Wouldn't it have been nice to have met your neighbors at least ONCE in FIVE YEARS and gotten to know them as people before passing judgment and hurting their family based solely on something they chose to put in their yard?
The whole concept of the neighborhood meeting and the complaints in the first place just scream out: "It's all about ME! It is about MY perceived home values. It is about what I think looks acceptable. It is about what I want to see as visually appealing in MY neighborhood. It's about me wanting to appear to live in a RICH or exclusive neighborhood."
To sum up my feelings on this saga, I offer the following points of reflection, not only to those 'anonymous' neighbors of mine, but to all of us, myself included:
What if instead of thinking about only ourselves, we took a moment to think about our neighbors? What if we took the time to get to know the human beings living inside of those walls? What if we took time to befriend those who live near us and to see the potential value and impact that the seven children living inside of the home could bring to the future of our community? What if we all cared more about what was inside the home than outside? And with all my apologies to MLKJ....What if we didn't judge people based on the color of their silo, but rather the content of their character?
I hate to leave this post with any feeling that we are worse off because of this experience, but rather, I would like to believe that I have learned important lessons that have influenced how I want to behave towards others and how I want to look at others. We have gained experience in: how the county and government systems work; four + days of hard work together as a family; and some measure of compassion and forgiveness in our hearts. We are healthy, happy, and even this little incident is only a tiny blip in the radar compared to the goodness that surrounds us, the neighbors that we have grown to dearly love, and the eternal perspective that sharpens with each jolt in our lives.