always, an open door

it is, of all the parts of this old house, the one that might just matter the most. it’s the one, surely, that sends the loudest message.

it is the door, the front door. and at our house it is mostly glass, so you can see what bubbles on the inside, and i can see out. so life pulses through the glass.

there is not, decidedly not, one of those little signs the village passes out: no solicitors invited.

oh, it’s not that i like talking about magazine subscriptions that just might send a kid to college. and it’s not that i like it when the doorbell rings just as i am stirring dinner.

but i refuse to have the first thing you see at my door be the sound of words slamming in your face. go away, not interested in strangers. hardly the tone i care to broadcast before you even ring the bell.

and, besides, i do like talking to strangers. especially kids who have ventured beyond the streets that they know well, and are maybe scared to shaking walking here where doors are always slamming.

but the open door i’m thinking about today is the one that is extended far beyond the front stoop. it’s the open door that means i am always at the ready for whoever comes this way, for whoever has a tale to tell, and needs someone to listen.

it is, i think, the highest calling of a house. to be a place of utter comfort. to be a place that oozes, “sit here, tell me all your troubles.”

it is why, in the first place, we stack the logs, put out pillows, make sure that there’s the softest, warmest blanket we can find. it’s why the pantry holds a basket full of teas, and the clementines are plenty.

first and foremost, a house brings peace to those who dwell there. but if that door is never open, if we don’t usher in a stranger, then a house is merely shelter. and not a place of holy respite.

it is the invitation that never ends. my house is your house. without the two of us to dance, the heartbeat fades away, evaporates to lonely.

just today, any hour now, there will be a woman at that door. a woman i barely know. i’ve only met her once. but her heart broke and cracked and shattered recently, and she’s trying to gather up the pieces.

she was pregnant with a baby girl just this summer past. and when they did an ultrasound, the kind they always do, not in search of any trouble, they found that baby girl had a hole where her diaphragm should be. so all her insides, the ones that should be in the belly, were pushed up by her lungs.

the baby girl was born, fighting just to breathe. and one month later, the baby girl died, right before thanksgiving.

her mama, strong and gentle all at once, survived the holidays. she has two little boys, so her hands, she says, are always busy.

but her heart can barely contain the bleeding that comes from burying a baby.

and so she comes, quite simply, to unspool her unending sorrow. she comes to try to ease the clenching in her chest.

it is in the telling of our stories, often, that the healing begins to come. it is in looking up through tears and seeing another face. a pair of eyes, a heart, absorbing all there is to be absorbed.

sometimes we are called upon to be a human swab for all the ache that cannot be bound inside one single heart.

sometimes we need only listen.

sometimes what is shared across a tear-splashed kitchen table is the very blessed act of kindling just a single wick of light where there’d been only darkness.

but if the door is sometimes closed, then how can sorrow enter, and begin to ease toward healing?

the open door, i’m convinced, is most essential for a house to be a holy place where hearts are stitched with hope, and two heartbeats rise in sacred echo–one promising the other that peace will come again.

do you find yourself sometimes across the table from someone who needs to tell their story? do you find it easy to forget that the purpose of a door is to be opened? what rites and rituals do you make a part of your home to make the stranger–or the friend–feel wholly welcome?