Just before my 5th grade year, my father left the Navy for a civilian job in Virginia. He and my mother found a good school district, then went looking for a house to rent. They found a 3+ bedroom ranch with attached garage and on a wooded lot. The owners lived overseas, and their last renters had left a few weeks earlier. Since the furniture wouldn’t arrive for several days, there was plenty of time to give the place a good scrubbing. From top to bottom, everything got the soapy water/Comet/Murphy’s Oil Soap treatment. It was while my sister and I were cleaning that we found the hypodermic needles – under baseboard heaters, in cupboards, even a few on the screened in patio. My parents collected them, making sure none of us would suffer a needle stick.

Later that day, I asked my mother why anyone would want needles in their house. As far as I knew, needles were used in hospitals and doctor’s offices, not in someone’s house.

“Diabetics use needles at home,” was all my mother said.

Several years went by before I gave those needles another thought. It was the day I pricked my finger in my high school Advanced Biology class. The image of those needles came back, along with the conviction that no diabetic would throw needles in bedroom corners and patio niches. The needles were for a whole different purpose altogether.

My parents certainly knew what those needles had been used for. Looking back, I think they wanted me to live a few more years before learning one of life’s sadder truths: homes can foster death as well as life for those who live there.

Lord, save us from harm- the harm others inflict and the harm we inflict upon ourselves. Amen.

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