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A Parable for Our Time

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This is a true story; but to me it seems more like a parable.

A single man moved into the apartment next to ours, and he and his mother and his sister furnished and decorated it so that it looked like something out of House Beautiful. It was exquisite: not just the whole ensemble, but each individual piece of it.

But this man had a drinking problem.

One night, my wife and I went to bed early because we were to go off on vacation the next day, and that’d mean a lot of work loading and unloading, driving, etc. At some undetermined hour of darkness, we were awakened by a great CRASH! next door, followed by another, and another, and another. We heard glass shattering. We heard heavy objects being hurled down the stairs and snapping into splinters. And we heard a man cursing. We knew it was the man who lived there, and that he was in a drunken rage.

This went on for quite a while. You’ve never heard anything like it.

The next day, as I was taking suitcases out to the car, the door to that apartment swung open. There stood the tenant, bleary-eyed and half-dressed. Behind him lay a total shambles. All those beautiful pieces of furniture lay strewn across the floor like firewood.Every single thing was broken.

And of course I knew what happened, because I’d heard him pitching his furniture down the stairs, hurling it against the walls, and stomping it.

He greeted me, and with a profoundly sad expression on his face, stepped aside to give me a better view of the ruin of his apartment. And do you know what he said?

He said, “Look what happened!”

Not “Look what I did in my drunken frenzy!” No: it just “happened.” As if he’d had nothing to do with it.

Someday we will point to what’s left of America and say, “Look what happened.”

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James Tennant

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