That ugly old barn

In 1966, almost 50 years ago, our family moved halfway across the continent for a job.
My husband had just finished his Master’s degree at the University of Alberta and had been invited to teach at a small church college in the middle of the United States.
The thought of leaving our friends and our wonderful world in Edmonton traumatized the whole family. And yet, the idea of teaching at a church college was very appealing to my husband and me since both of us had graduated from church colleges.
So we finally decided to try it for a period of two years. We rented our Edmonton house furnished to a visiting professor from Winnipeg and moved our family almost 2,000 miles—into the home of a professor on sabbatical leave.
We loved the rural setting and the college community immediately. So after four years of house-hopping, we decided to build.
Ours was the first house on a 50-lot tract of land and we had our choice of location. We chose a plot that backed onto a picturesque old barn attached to a beautiful ceramic tile silo.
We loved that old barn and the surrounding orchard, especially in springtime. To maximize the view, my husband designed our house with a wall of windows looking out on the barn.
The view was striking, especially before we had planted our own trees. And each person who stepped into our living room for the first time commented.
Some said, “You have such a nice house and that beautiful old barn just finishes the picture.”
While others said, “You have such a lovely home. It’s too bad you have to look at that ugly old barn.”
In retrospect, I sometimes wish I had jotted down which of our friends said what. On the other hand, what would have been the point of separating our friends into two groups: “barn lovers” and “barn haters?”
Our friends are all good people. Maybe some of them just had a blind spot when it comes to old barns.
Or maybe it was us who had the blind spot–glorifying that “picturesque” falling-down barn inhabited with bats, pigeons, and swallows. Building our nice new house so close to that “eyesore.”
That beautiful old barn! That ugly old barn! Who’s to say who had the blind spot?
This little parable has many applications. People are different, and they have different tastes and different ideas.
Some people love country music; others detest it and prefer classical. Some people read deep philosophical books; others prefer romance novels.
Some love to travel; others prefer to stay close to home. Some love gourmet foods; others prefer old-fashioned meat and potatoes.
We often differ in more major and important things. Even within families and in churches, we have to cultivate tolerance and try to understand each other.
The lines of communication must stay open. Unless we talk to each other and really listen, the full truth always is hidden.
Yes, that old barn may be ugly. But if we look at it from another perspective, there is artistry in the paint-bare wood.
And “that ugly old barn” may just be beautiful after all!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at