The Flag House

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F_Bronwyn

My favorite house is the One With The Flags. It is a beautiful house on a shaded street. It has trimmed roses and, as a salute to the cycling culture of our city, a number of brightly painted bicycles mounted on the fence as cheerful sculptures. But, most significantly, it is a house with a flag pole out front, and every single day it sails a national flag from somewhere in the world. I have seen flags from every corner of the globe. There are bold flags (Japan), intricately shaped flags (Nepal), and flags from countries I didn’t know existed (the British Virgin Isles). A small whiteboard tucked at the base of the flagpole helps us passers-by place a pin on our mental map from whence the standard up above hails.

The flag house is a gift to our community. A different flag flies every day: a patriotic repertoire of over a hundred. Every time I drive past, I see a vibrant, visual salute to somewhere far away: someone else’s country, someone else’s homeland, and as an immigrant living in this city I call home—it makes me feel at home like nothing else does. We’re in the USA, but the world beyond its borders is recognized, named, honored, and celebrated.

Curiosity finally led me to knock on the door and meet the owner. As it turns out, the rambling homestead is inhabited by an elderly lady: born to Scottish parents in the West Indies but who now lives in the USA. Her husband had worked in a field that brought many international visitors to their home over the years. Her eyes sparkled with memories as she recounted how, in an effort to make her foreign guests feel welcome, she had tried to find flags from their countries of origin to fly on the day they came to visit. “Every guest we ever had commented on it,” she told me. “It was a small thing but it made such a big difference.”

I nodded. Even from afar, her small, faithful discipline of celebrating the countries of the world had made a difference to me.

Nelson Mandela passed away on my birthday year before last. I hardly recognized the sadness I was carrying until I drove by the Flag House and noticed the South African flag at half mast in his honor. Finding my home country’s flag in a suburban American garden brought a release of tears I had been holding onto for days.

My mind flew back to other moments of feeling undone by some small act of kindness.

A tiny chocolate, left on my pillow when I was afraid our sudden visit made us unwelcome guests.

Someone remembering my name the second time I showed up at church: new-to-town, trembling and vulnerable.

A friend dropping to her knees to listen to my four-year-old’s story.

A link to a song, sent on a trying day.

A hand-written note.

To be remembered, recognized, named and honored—these were the things Jesus excelled at. He remembered the forgettable. He threw his arms open wide to children. He had dinner with Zaccheus, despite his bad rep for creative accounting. He spent time weeping with the mourners at Lazarus’ grave, even though he knew a miracle was in the wings. He took the time to listen to the Samaritan woman’s story, and to pause his flint-faced journey towards Jerusalem to hear the plea of pitiful Bartimaeus.

I get the feeling he would have loved the House with the Flags, too.

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Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama, raising little people in California and raising eyebrows at bronlea.com. Fueled by grace, caffeine and laughter, she writes about the holy and hilarious in life, faith and family. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea
  • To see that flag up here, I’m a mess before I’ve even started, Bronwyn. 😉

    I can only imagine what it would have felt like to see the South African flag hanging half mast on a neighbour’s house at the time of Mandela’s passing. She speaks so much with these flags. Such honor. Such solidarity.

    And then you wove it into an even larger story.

    “He remembered the forgettable.”

    O, glory.

    • I can just imagine us both sitting on the side of the road in a puddle of tears, looking up at that gorgeous flag and remembering all the aching beauty of Madiba’s land together, Idelette. Thank you so much for your welcome, your words, and a chance to participate in this beautiful space at She Loves.

  • I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I just love this. And I’m so thrilled to be *with* you on this She Loves journey. xo
    I especially like how you put this.
    “He spent time weeping with the mourners at Lazarus’ grave, even though he knew a miracle was in the wings.”

    • That moment around Lazarus’ grave has always made me pause. Was Jesus really grieving, given that he had stalled deliberately on his way to the tomb? Was it a *show* of empathy, or true compassion? Of course, since he is light and there is no darkness in him at all, I know that he can’t have been duplicitous in his show of emotion… which then leads me to think of the boggling reality that Jesus was able to FULLY enter into the the pain of the moment, even though he knew the FULL hope of redemption about to come. It takes incarnational ministry to another level: being completely present not just in body, but in soul and heart with those he loves. I am undone.

  • pastordt

    This is just remarkable – great story, great examples, beautiful writing. Thank you so much. I absolutely LOVE this idea of flying different flags – it’s a small thing, in some ways, and HUGE in others. Thanks so much. I love reading you here!

    • Thank you so much! I’m just thrilled to be joining the She Loves family – a place which has flown symbolic flags of hope and welcome for so many people.

  • SimplySuzi

    Tears. So many tears. Love, love, love.

  • I want to visit the flag house! What a personal, practical, public way to welcome her guests. I love it.

    • I want to take you! If you’re ever in NorCal, come drink tea with me and I’ll show you!

      • It’s a date! I’ve been to southern Cali but never to the north. We tried to road trip there for reading break of my last year at TWU. We wanted to see the redwoods, but the car broke down and we only got as far as Oregon. One day 😀

  • Bev Murrill

    There’s a corny old christian song ‘love is a flag flown high’… I won’t sing the rest of the line because it’s that which makes it corny… but in this case, that lady really loved the world, and has flown the flags to prove it.

  • What a beautiful picture of hospitality and welcoming the “stranger”