Ruth stared at a distance with grief on her face. The house she grew up in was now engulfed in flames. “Why can’t you do anything?” – she shouted to firefighters. “Why don’t you save it?”
Everything she owned was not slowly burning to ashes, and these men didn’t even try to stop it. “We can’t save it…and we won’t!” – one of the firefighters finally answered. When Ruth heard the reason for such a decision, she just couldn’t hold her tears…
Kevin Burns was newly settled in their neighborhood, and he was so excited to finally be living in his very own home. He lived in smaller apartments before, but this was definitely a level up from that.
While he was walking through his new neighborhood, he would always notice a sweet lady sitting on a foldable chair by her car. He often wondered what her story was and whether he would gather the courage to ask her about her life.
During his daily walks, Kevin passed by the old lady again and smiled at her. He was expecting her to be a bit grumpy, as most elders were, but she gave him an equally warm smile back. She said, “I see that you’ve just moved. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Kevin wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome, but he did appreciate it. He stopped for a bit and told her, “Thank you, ma’am. I’m looking forward to meeting more neighbors in the future.” As he was getting ready to walk back home, the lady told him, “If you’ve got time, I’d always be down for a chat.”
Kevin had no idea who this lady was or where she came from – all he knew was that she was always sitting on that particular foldable chair. Plus, she was always parked behind someone’s driveway. Was that her house?
He still hadn’t gathered the courage to speak to the old lady, but curiosity was slowly getting the better of him. So he put on a coat before going out and talking to the lovely old lady by the driveway…
He wasn’t sure whether she was homeless, and he didn’t want to assume anything. As soon as the old lady saw Kevin approaching, she gave him a bright smile and quite a big wave. She said, “Hey, you came back!”
Kevin said, “Of course, I did. I always said that I would take you up on that offer of a chat.” The lady introduced herself, “I’m Ruth Radcliffe, and I’m in my 70s. I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life.” Kevin was astounded, but he introduced himself instead, “It’s so nice to meet you, Ruth. I’m Kevin.”
A few minutes into their chat, Kevin asked Ruth, “Why are you always parked in this particular driveway?” Ruth gave a slight laugh and said, “Well, believe it or not, but this is actually my house.”
This stunned Kevin because he wasn’t sure whether Ruth was homeless or not. Now he had the answer he was looking for, but this wasn’t enough. He proceeded to ask the old lady another question, “Ruth, why are you staying in your car if you’ve got a perfectly good house?”
Ruth’s face turned somber, but she admitted, “My house isn’t that nice on the inside anymore. Well, it’s all my fault because I let it fall into ruin after my dear husband’s death.” Kevin could feel the heartache in Ruth’s voice, so he didn’t ask any more questions.
For the months that followed, Kevin visited Ruth regularly. He also brought his older friend some blankets to keep her warm and food to get her through tough days. Ruth had been accustomed to Kevin, and she was grateful for his friendship – although something unexpected would happen quite later on…
One day, Kevin was supposed to visit Ruth, but she was nowhere to be found. She wasn’t in her usual foldable chair by the driveway, so where was she? A couple of minutes later, Ruth emerged from her car, and it would appear that she was in tears.
Kevin rushed to her side and asked her, “What happened? Why are you crying?” Ruth was still sobbing at that moment, but she was starting to mellow down. Ruth said, “I tried finding a picture of my parents in my car, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe I left it in the house.”
Ruth added, “I just wanted to look at their faces because I don’t want to forget what they looked like. I just wanted to remember them.” Kevin could hear the pain in Ruth’s voice, and he could see that the old lady just wanted a photo of her parents.
So he hatched a plan, and he told Ruth, “Don’t worry, I’m going to go into your house and get the photo that you wanted. Would that be fine?” Ruth’s eyes lit up, and she told Kevin, “I can’t believe you’d do that for me.” Kevin gave his older friend a hug and told her, “I’ll see you in a minute.”
Kevin had no idea what he signed up for, and he wasn’t expecting to find utter chaos in Ruth’s home. As soon as he walked in, there was a horrifying stench that greeted him – it was unbearable. He simply thought about the old lady and how important this must be for her.
He turned on the flashlight that he had brought as Ruth told him that there was no electricity in the house. No matter where Kevin looked, there was clutter and debris. It didn’t look like a proper home at all – no wonder Ruth was living in her car…
Walking through Ruth’s house was far from walking in a park – it was quite the opposite, in fact. It was messy, clutter was all around, and it was very chaotic. Not to mention the distinct smell that Kevin had been inhaling ever since he went inside.
He said to himself, “I wonder why she let it get this bad.” Kevin wanted to get out of the house as quickly as possible, so he tried to find the photo of Ruth’s parents. It was starting to become such a hard task because of the clutter and chaos everywhere – still, Kevin wasn’t prepared to see what he was about to uncover…
As he walked through Ruth’s kitchen, Kevin stumbled across a hidden room. It was bizarre, and it looked like it had been a children’s room in the past. Ruth never mentioned anything about children, and he was quite sure that she didn’t have children of her own.
He would ask Ruth about this hidden room when he got the chance, but he had to focus on the task at hand. The smell was starting to get more and more unbearable, so Kevin got out of the hidden room and tried to carry on with his search.
Kevin wondered where the stench was coming from, but he couldn’t find it. Upon looking at the dining table, he could see a photo of two older couples. He said to himself, “Maybe this was the photo that Ruth had been looking for.”
He took the photo and headed towards the door, but something caught his eye. It was a black print on the wall, but it wasn’t a print at all. It was actually quite a terrible growth of mold – it had infested Ruth’s home, and it was giving the stench that he was inhaling.
Kevin had finally gotten out of the house, and he took a big breath of fresh air as soon as he could. Ruth saw him get out, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Did you get it?”
He nodded, and he handed the photo to the old lady who was patiently waiting for it. Ruth inspected the image, and Kevin could see that she had tears coming down her face. She told her friend, “This is the best thing anybody has ever done for me in ages.”
Before leaving, Kevin asked Ruth, “While I was inside, I saw that there’s a hidden room by the kitchen. Who’s room was it?” Ruth shrugged, and it was as if she didn’t hear the question at all. Kevin simply let it go because he felt like it was a topic she didn’t want to talk about.
Kevin also told Ruth that she needed to call for back-up because of the mold infestation in her home. He said, “Let’s call a mold company to see whether they can remove all the mold in your house, okay?” Ruth agreed, and she said that she’d do it the very next day.
The very next day, Kevin went back to Ruth’s house, and they both called a mold company. While the team was inspecting Ruth’s house, they could see that the mold infestation had gotten way too deep. So they said, “There’s nothing we can do here, we’re sorry to say. Maybe you should call the fire department.”
That was exactly what the duo did, and the fire department came as soon as they could. Even the fire department could see how infested the house was, and it wasn’t salvageable at all. It was also right then and there when the fire department had quite an idea…
One of the firefighters said, “Why don’t we just burn the house down, and you can build a completely new house? It would be a hassle, but at least you’ll get rid of your mold infestation.” This wasn’t an option that Ruth was prepared to hear, but she knew that it was for the best.
The fire department marked the area around the house, and the firefighters set Ruth’s house on fire. Kevin held Ruth’s hand in her hour of need, and he could feel that the old lady was squeezing his hand quite hard. She was sad and looked at her beloved house as it burned down – what would happen to her now?
When they met, Kevin thought that Ruth was homeless – by the end of that day, Ruth was homeless indeed. She lived in her car, but she used to have a real home. Now, she didn’t have anything, and she didn’t have any close familial relations in the area.
However, her friend promised her that he wouldn’t let her down. Kevin told Ruth, “We’re going to help you get back to your feet. This is my promise to you.” That same night, Kevin shared Ruth’s story on social media, which gathered quite a big following. A lot of people wanted to pitch in when it came to building Ruth’s new abode – but was it enough?
A few months after Ruth’s home had been burned to the ground, a local nursing home took her in for free. Not only that, but her neighbors pitched in when dealing with her day-to-day expenditures. She had no idea that people could be nice if they wanted to.
Kevin also visited Ruth whenever he could, and he loved seeing his old friend thrive. One day, Ruth sat with him and told him, “The hidden room you discovered was my old room. I grew up in that house, and I thought that maybe that could be my children’s room too – but I never had any, so I had to close it down.”
Having her home burned to the ground might’ve been the best thing that’s ever happened to Ruth. It might seem illogical at first, but more good has come from that incident if you think about it. It also shows that people could be kind towards their neighbors, which is such a beautiful thing.
We hope that we can all have a “Kevin” in our life – someone we can rely on and someone who will hold our hand whenever we need them to. Ruth’s story is a lesson, and we hope that we learn something from it today.