To My Sister’s HOA,
I am writing to you, not because my sister can’t, but because I have a different perspective I felt needed to be shared.
You see, my sister and her family love your neighborhood so much, that when they felt they needed to move to keep their son safe, they literally moved just a couple streets down. They left a pool we all enjoyed for a house with a yard that would better suit their son with visual and cognitive impairments. A house where he could be outside with his family in a yard that is safe for him.
I want you to take a moment to look at my nephew, Kahsay. It’s easy to hear about someone’s child with special needs, but it’s another to lay your eyes on him and to see that he is a real human being. Not just another person’s child, but a child in our community. A child who is loved. A child who brings joy. A child who is your neighbor.
You see most don’t even know when they encounter Kahsay that he is a miracle.
My sister and her family adopted him from Ethiopia almost 6 years ago. After having three biological daughters, God called them to grow their family through adoption. Jill and Jason knew God had a son for them across the world.
What they didn’t know was that their son would come home and after a few things didn’t seem quite “right” for a child his age they would seek out doctors and he would have many tests. What they didn’t know was that a doctor would look at them and tell them that their son’s scans showed massive deficits. They were told he would not talk. They were told he would not walk.
God surprises us though, doesn’t he? This child that “would never walk” stood up one day and took off. This child that my sister never had thought about needing baby gates or fences stood right up on his God given feet and took off (BTW, if you want to see the very moment this happened take a look here: The Day Kahsay Walked)
Thus began their journey to make sure he could enjoy the world around him while being able to stay safe.
While Kahsay is a miracle, his world is still so small. He is cognitively and visually impaired. You can imagine that for a child with these kind of disabilities the world around him can be scary. His family celebrates when he explores, but watches cautiously as there have been moments he has fallen and lost his front teeth, slipped and hit a coffee table resulting in stitches, and other such bumps and bruises. When my sister’s family moved into their new home they knew that they would need a fence for Kahsay to keep him safe, but they desperately wanted to allow him the freedom to explore his surroundings like any other 6 year old might.
Now, let me tell you about my sister. My sister is someone who takes pride in her home. She thrives on decorating and she is constantly creating with her home as her canvas. She has mastered the art of design on a dime, and knows how to find treasures and unique pieces to pull a space together. She is a woman who not only wants to protect her son, but a woman who wants to create a beautiful space inside and outside of her home.
My sister and her husband knew that there would be discussions about the type of fence allowed. The fence the board voted on as “allowed” to keep her son safe (a son none of them met, worked to learn more about, or asked questions about) is one that is not only meant for a farm but is also unfit to keep her son safe. When she asked for more understanding and clarification on the process to choose such fence she was met with “The Board stands behind this decision.” Period. Done. Questions unanswered.
One might say that they should just move elsewhere, however your neighborhood was one where their older daughters could continue to attend their current school and was within the school lines of one of the two schools that are the only options to best serve Kahsay and his disabilities.
If my sister chose to build a pool she could choose any fence she delighted. However, if she is choosing to protect her son she is given one option that isn’t even a good fit to protect him. It seems to me that if a fence is allowed that the HOA would want to make sure it was a fence that was aesthetically pleasing, and also did the job.
My question to you is “Would you want this to be your fence?” Is this a fence you would want your neighbor to put up? Is this a fence you would trust to be safe and secure for a child who is visually impaired? Did you ask my sister for recommendations? Do you know that the horizontal beams in this fence scare them? Kahsay has proven he will get up and walk without warning, so who is to say he wouldn’t get up and climb? He also has an oral stimulation, and there is fear he will put his mouth on this fence, which is clearly not safe in the least.
My sister’s family doesn’t want to break rules. They want to live in a neighborhood they adore, in a community they have been welcomed, and at the same time allow their family the ability to be outside with their son and not worry about his safety. They want to be proud of the way their house looks, and we know that this is also important to those who live near to them.
To many it might seem like “just a fence,” but for my sister and her family it’s another roadblock. It’s another issue to fight for or have to settle on. I have watched my sister and brother in law fight for this sweet boy since they day they saw his face on a referral letter they got 6 years ago. They have fought to keep him healthy, safe, and thriving. As a sister who has watched them fight, because things have rarely come easy when it comes to Kahsay, please consider allowing them to keep their son safe while providing a home that is something they can feel proud of.
We know that the purpose of an HOA is to manage what happens in the neighborhood so that certain rules are followed to keep our community looking nice, running smoothly, and that it is a safe place for all. We are appreciative of the work you do (because it is definitely a job I would never want). It is an important job and it is a necessary job. We ask that you take a look at your decision and evaluate if the choice is one that does keep the neighborhood looking nice and is it one that is safe for ALL of those in the community.
This is more than just politics and neighborhood rules.
This is further than the policies in your handbook.
There are moments it is more important to do what is good than to do what you think is “right.” Today is the day to do something good.