On Locking Doors and Opening them Back Up Again

“Why do we lock the door Mama?” asks my daughter every time we leave the house.


I struggle with knowing what to say, “To keep us safe,” but safe from what?


“To protect our stuff,” but to protect it from whom?


How do I explain this without making it sound like we live in a dangerous place?


“We don’t trust our neighbors, I guess,” is the best I can do.


Because that is what it is? Isn’t it?


The truth is I don’t know my neighbors and I don’t know my neighborhood. I don’t trust them not to take my stuff or hurt me and I certainly don’t trust them to care if someone from outside the neighborhood is trying to take our stuff or hurt us. And so we lock our doors.


But locking doors only gets us so far.




Even those of us who try not to follow the news can’t escape the realities of violence in America.


My heart breaks for the families of the young lives lost in Oregon.


And Perhaps almost worse than the tragedy in these stories is that as a nation we have begun to grow numb to them.   For the most part the announcement of another shooting is heard like the score of last night’s basketball game.


“Another shooting?”


“How many died?’


We shake our heads and pray that the next one won’t be in our town, convince ourselves that it won’t and then move on.


What else can we do?  It feels uncontrollable.  And yet we know and that it is not going away.


.    .    .

We are reading Wendell Berry’s The Art of The Commonplace in our reading group right now.


“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbors’ prosperity and goodwill and beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities-and not the communities simply of our human neighbors, but also to the water, earth and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.”


When we are afraid our tendency is to put up barriers, taller fences, and bigger locks, or to hide, pull our kids of of public schools and move further out into the suburbs. We look to the government for reform in gun control and mental health. And certainly there is room for improvement in both.  But we forget that there is something  more we can do. Something simple, like walking next-door and introducing ourselves to our neighbor.


For a while I lived on a ranch outside of Leakey, Texas, a small town of 400 people. Here you did not only  greet every person you passed on the street, but even in your car, even on the highway, with every car you passed you gave a quick nod and a wave.  It was a way of saying, “I see you, I’m here for you, don’t think you are unnoticed.”  It showed me that a community where everyone is known to everyone else is not impossibility, in fact it has always existed.  This kind of community has no place for a  for a sketchy car parked in front of the house, for questionable activities going on in someones’ basement, for remaining a stranger or for anonymity.


Being there made me wonder, what would it look like if I lived in a place as if I intended to stay for the rest of my life? If I intended that my children and grandchildren would stay in that very place? Would I care for the land differently, would I commit to being part of our city’s development?  Rather than locking my doors, would I begin throwing them open, realizing that my only hope for safety comes from knowing the people around me and letting them know me too?




This post is part of a series of reflections on The Art of The Commonplace. For more Liturgy of Life, subscribe or follow on facebook. To learn more about our reading group, click here, or check out our facebook group. We would love to have you read and ponder along with us.


Thanks for being here,



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