Postcard #10: Uninvited Guest

This marks an even dozen of Hardwick posts, despite the #10, but all of these have skirted around the jagged edges of where I’m really aiming: that community, like family, is suffused with some of the best and some of the very worst, too, of human nature. The little, one-room library (nearby, but not the Hardwick library) where I reign as Chief Cataloguer and Window Washer is visited by kids who sprawl on the carpet between the shelves and read, who crawl behind the wing chair and create magical worlds with puppets and stuffed animals — toys I leave when I vacuum and then turn off the lights, for children I expect will return.

My library has also been visited through a window and burglarized. My desk, where I keep stickers and budget sheets and book orders has been touched by hands not mine.

There’s a story behind this that’s not a nice story, about this visitor I didn’t invite in, but whom I would have, had he used the door like anyone else. My face, writing this, must reflect my anger and my fear. I’m no tabula rasa, and this entry into a place I’ve considered a kind of personal sanctuary cuts me.

And yet — and this is a very, very big and yet — I’m familiar with that ghastly howl of addiction, and my guess is that this intruder seeks the intrinsic human need of coming in out of the cold.

Yet, he didn’t come through the open door.

Driving home with my daughters over snowy roads in the dark last night, listening to their music, we drove around Lake Willoughby with no one else on the roads, and the waxing moon pushed through a scrim of clouds. Cold, cold: nearly zero. Enchantingly beautiful. A terrain known and yet unknowable.

I don’t have answers to why some children are well-tended and dressed, while others have drawn a short stick of basic things like food and clothing. I’m not naive enough to think the uninvited guest will ever use the library door, nor do I ever intend to welcome him through a window. But in this Christmas season of redemption and giving, I keep returning to that reality that doors and windows open, and the world is wider than I’m often inclined to credit.

I wanted to try to write a book about poverty that didn’t focus exclusively on poor people or poor places. Poverty was a relationship, I thought, involving poor and rich people alike. To understand poverty, I needed to understand that relationship. This sent me searching for a process that bound poor and rich people together in mutual dependence and struggle. Eviction was such a process.

— Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City


Hardwick, Vermont



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