About twenty five years ago, I was hosting a small group of people from our church for a Bible Study. Oh, these people lived in lovely homes. People who used their designer touch to decorate their homes. People who knew what to do with the items that came from Pottery Barn. People who moved with grace and ease. People that I wanted to be like.
At the time, Frank and I lived in a modest house on South 31st Street with our five sons. While the magazine pictures and displays from Pottery Barn escaped me, I cleaned, scrubbed, rearranged furniture, and did okay. Our home then and now would be described as “comfortable.” Our guests finally arrived. The first guests happened to be a couple and their elementary school age daughter. As fate would have it, the daughter walked three feet into our house, and began throwing up with the force of someone that had just finished a hot dog eating contest. All through the house, vomit landed with the nauseating smell of a sick child. All through the house, the parents apologized as they guided their child to the bathroom. All through the house, no one noticed the cleaning, cooking, or furniture arrangement. Everyone noticed a sick child that needed attention.
Oh, the lesson I learned that day. I learned that I can only be me, and I’m not really a Pottery Barn type of girl. I learned that I cook simple meals, often the same meals my mother taught me to cook. I learned that it isn’t what is in your house, but what is in your heart. I learned that I need to stop trying to impress people, and just relax a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like the house to be neat, clean and orderly. But I would rather open my door to you and invite you into my dust and dirt than not have you there. I want our home open to the sounds of laughter, blanket forts, games of Sorry, Uno, and Rook. Open to the smells of chocolate chip cookies, lasagna, a hot bowl of chili, and even the occasional bout of vomit.
The people that came to my house all those years ago still come to my house. These people became my 3:00 a.m. friends. You know, the people you call in the middle of the night when tragedy strikes. The people that stand with you in the bad times, and lead the cheers during good times. The people that simply have your back and live in your foxhole. (The people whose hearts are more beautiful than their homes or worldly possessions.)
There are people that do not have 3:00 a.m. friends. People that are feeling alone, uncomfortable, disconnected, and in need. As we venture into spring and a time of renewal, perhaps we need to look around to the hurt and lonely. I don’t just want the door to my home to be open, but I want the door to my heart to be open. I want to respond to the “still small voice” that guides me into relationship with others with love, kindness, acceptance, and humility. We can change the world the same way we eat an elephant, one small bite at a time.