Fall 2012: “Your Dream House” Powerful Voice Winner Paw Soe

Read Paw's essay about how her Burmese roots taught her that no matter the size of your home, an abundant garden is essential.

Paw Soe, a student of Ginger Giessler at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “Living Large in a Tiny House,” by Carol Estes, a story about Dee Williams downsizing from a three-bedroom bungalow to an 84-square-foot house. She is our Powerful Voice winner for the Fall 2012 writing competition.

Writing prompt: “If you had the choice, what size house would you live in? What are important features your house would have, and what would you intentionally avoid?”


Garden Souls


C.S. Lewis once said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”  What if our houses were like bodies, and the happiness and love in life were our soul? And why do we often think that it is an absolute must for our souls to reside in our bodies? Who says our souls can’t be free of our bodies, and be just as simple and pure as ever? Likewise, just because we can’t live in an extravagant mansion or have a backyard with an inground pool, should we be any happier than if we were to live in a run-down shack or one-bedroom apartment? Do the walls that confine you feel as relaxing and comfortable as the breeze brushing your hair into the winds or soft green grass tickling the bottom of your feet?  Are they as heartwarming as gingerly holding the hands of someone you love or listening to the familiar laugh of a family member or friend? Do they give you the overwhelming satisfaction you get after finally completing a project that you’ve worked you hardest on for days and nights?

The YES! Magazine article, “Living Large in a Tiny House, about Dee Williams downsizing to an 84-square-foot house, made me think about my family roots and values. I have been raised to believe that these simple gestures aren’t found in gold and diamonds or in a fancy house with a hundred rooms for no one to live in. My family and I are immigrants from Burma who came over with little to our name, but it really didn’t matter seeing as our happiness wasn’t usually found in materialistic objects. Since I was very young, my parents had taught me to love nature and everything in it. They were both raised in a rural area of the country. My father’s family lived in a two-room, bamboo-thatched house, and my father spent most of his youngster days traipsing across rice paddy fields and climbing trees, entertaining himself with the things he could find outside. Even now, he claims that those were his happiest days. It never became a priority for our family to have the best toys or the biggest home. As long as we spent time outside, where all the magic and splendor of life really was, we were content.


My family has lived in four houses now, and no matter how big the backyards were, each one was filled with abundant gardens. Whether we lived in a two-story house or a one-story apartment, the draw of our home was always the garden with its delicious tomatoes and green beans. For my parents, a good garden was always something to be prideful of. Squash, pumpkin, cucumber, tomato, three different types of chili, gourd, watercress, carrots, potatoes, and much more were routinely planted every year.

A good garden reflects its owner because if a garden prospers it means that it has been cared for properly. It has to be watered twice a day, weeded all the time, trimmed nicely, and filled with many types of vegetables. A successful garden requires massive effort and has to be loved if it is to do well, and, in return, the garden will love you back by giving to you all the fruits of your hard work. The grown vegetables can be passed around to neighbors, given as presents to people who need them, and are, overall, beneficial for not just yourself, but also for everybody associated and even not associated with you. In our small communities, gardens bring everyone together.

What’s the use of the fanciest or largest home if all you get after constantly cleaning it and working so hard to make it look nice is just a fixture to stare at? What home is worth all your time and money if it can’t give you the joy you need? I don’t need a big, fancy mansion with a huge patio and a pool in the backyard. All I need is a quaint, simple house with nicely sized windows to let the sun in and a grand backyard with a garden to pour all my intent and determination into so that I may give back to the people who have loved me. To me, that’s happiness.

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