We Left the Front Porch Light On


Kaila Haste, Contributing Writer

For as long as I can remember, there were certain periods in my life in which a man would come and stay with my family and me for a few days or even a few weeks. His name is Mike. He was one of my dad’s best friends in high school, and while they were very close, they eventually took different paths. My dad went to school, got a job at a very good company, married my beautiful mom, and had two pretty amazing kids–my older brother and me.

But Mike?

Quite honestly, I’m not sure what exactly happened to him, but I do know a few things: I know that Mike started using drugs, began selling drugs, never has had a real job, never had a stable home, did not have a stable relationship, and definitely did not make the same good choices my dad made. Of course, I didn’t realize or know any of this until late July 2019. 

I remember coming home from being with friends all day that July evening and seeing Mike in my living room and my mom telling me, “No, don’t worry, he’s only here for a few weeks.”

It was much longer than a few weeks. 

Fast forward to the night of Christmas Eve: my family and I stopped at Huntley Hospital to visit Mike because he had developed a terrible infection and had no one else to visit him. He was still living with us at this point.

Now fast forward to March 2020 when the Coronavirus became real in our lives. He stayed with us throughout the entire quarantine. A few weeks turned into roughly a year. My mom finally kicked him out of our house in June 2020 when she found out he made very bad decisions again that I cannot discuss. He put her children in danger, which was always my mom’s one nonnegotiable.

Fast forward again to 30 minutes ago. We just sent him a Christmas card. It was addressed to McHenry County Jail. 

But the thing is, this isn’t even the first time something like this has happened in my home; this is just the first time I’m understanding what happened and what has happened. It’s weird, right? My whole life this kind of thing has occurred over and over again and I never even noticed. But the thing that is really messing with my head is the fact that it DOES keep happening. Why do my parents keep letting him back into our lives when they know the danger he brings? 

Author Jon Mooallem, in his essay Great Alaskan Earthquake, answered my question. He talked about how when disasters strike, people come together and unite to get through the hardships and overcome them. They don’t run in fear, fight, or cause violence. No. They work through it together–as one. This earthquake absolutely destroyed Anchorage, Alaska. Tore it into pieces. But even when it seems like nothing would get better, people found the good in it and did their best to put their town back together. Even small acts make all the difference in the world because if each person does one small act, eventually the small acts will overcome the big disaster. Mooallem tells the story of Mrs. Fleming, an ordinary woman who was shaken by the earthquake, who “had found herself on a thrashing staircase, and seeing a teetering child in front of her, instinctively tucked him under her arm and strained to keep them both steady” (Mooallem 4). 

I’ve come to realize that Mrs. Fleming and my parents are very similar.

Whatever their hearts are made of, theirs are the same. 

In both situations, they put themselves in danger to help another. Why? Mooallem says it best: “If we want to stop our world from shaking, we need to find in even the tiniest of these acts the same meaning and immediacy, the same togetherness and purpose,— that Mrs. Fleming felt, holding onto that little boy” (Moallem 4). The small, the tiny, and the little baby acts are the ones that make the most difference in our world.

Mike has nothing. No family, no friends, no job, no home, nothing. He doesn’t have a single thing that’s stable in his life. Except us — we are Mike’s everything. 

The purpose of this essay isn’t to single Mike out and attack him for everything he’s done, and it’s not to talk about how an earthquake nearly destroyed a town. It’s about recognizing the small things in life. It’s about recognizing how Mrs. Fleming’s act of selflessness saved a little boy’s life. And it’s about my parents’ faith in Mike even though he doesn’t deserve it. These things aren’t going to be written in our history books; they won’t make a difference in the world. But guess what? These small acts made all the difference in the world to the little boy’s life and Mike’s. At the end of the day, “it’s our vulnerability that connects us” (Moallem 5). We are people, we are humans, and when we are faced with challenges and obstacles, we do not run away, we run towards them. We are there for one another, and we do whatever we can to help one another. And that’s important.

So I leave you with one last thing I’d like to say:

Mike, come home. We’ll leave the front porch light on for you. We’re here to help.