Monday, May 18, 2015

The Pigeon Home Principal

In mathematics, there's a helpful little rule called the Pigeonhole Principal.  Essentially, it says that if you create a nesting box that has more pigeons than pigeonholes, then at least one of the holes has two (or more) pigeons nesting in it.

In our home, we keep trying to optimize people-space by filling the house up with extra people.  We have this home that has something like a gazillion bedrooms (okay, 5 bedrooms).  When K-daughter moved out in August, that left only two boys and the parents here.  At some point, the boys will graduate high school and eventually move out of the house; at that point, we'll gleefully switch strategies:  we'll optimize people-space by moving to a home that's substantially smaller.  But for now, we just add new people in to empty rooms.  Think of it as the "Pigeon Home Principal".

We don't go crazy with this PHP -- bringing strangers into the home has both advantages and disadvantages, of course.  Our family still remembers with a bit of trepidation the summer that C-son was with us. And J-son was reminding my husband the other night about the woman we hosted for about two weeks while she needed some time to get back into the right headspace; J-son remembers those weeks fondly as a time of camaraderie, but I knew she was seeing counsellors because of problems with self-mutilation.  Things can get a little edgy when random people move in.

So we've also said "no" to people who were looking for places to stay and hoping we'd say "yes".  B was such a person; she's struggling in college, both academically and personally, and can't go home to her family because they're not a safe space.  I knew from talking to others that she was going to need a lot of help, and also that she still has a lot of growing up to do.  I worried that if B moved in with us we'd become her own personal Hotel California; she'd never find a way out.  So we managed to find her an apartment at a local theological seminary -- off of our campus, so she has some space from academics, but also enough on her own that she has to take responsibility for her own choices.

We've also reserved one room as a safe-return space for K-daughter, who has a new baby, an almost-as-new marriage, and who still has a year or two of college courses left before she earns her degree.  We know there's a small chance she might want family around her at some point. (In fact, while her husband is off at Army Camp this summer, she'll move back in with us for just a few weeks. YYYYAAAAY!).

But there was one room left. So earlier this year, we got a note from my good friend TL, writing about a graduating student who wanted to do a year of Inter Varsity work before heading off for medical school.  TL said this:
I've hesitated to forward this request to you, knowing your generous nature and not wanting to pressure you in any way. I talked with Y again yesterday at church, and she still does not have housing lined up after Jan 11 besides a place on someone's couch. My understanding is that she will be looking for a job when she returns in January and is unable to commit to a rent amount until then. We have offered a month at the TL Chateau while she figures stuff out. From what I know of Y, I can only imagine that she'd be a respectful, delightful addition to any home. . . .
And this is how Y moved into our home.  She's very self-sufficient, so we don't see her much, but she's joined in Easter traditions and Girls Nights and a Special Dinner or two.  I've given her some of my cast-off clothes.  And for Mother's Day, she gave me a book she'd heard me rave about: a pre-owned copy of  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, a fantastic book.  She hadn't read it before, so I read it to her and N-son on the living room rug.  It was a lovely moment to share.
The moral of this story is that, although you should never let the pigeon drive the bus, it can actually be a grand thing to let the pigeon move into your home.

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