“The world needs more tackle boxes and less Xboxes.” The clever meme made me think of how life used to be. You know, when people sat on their front porches every evening, swatting mosquitoes and wiping their sweaty faces with weary handkerchiefs. Where they rocked in squeaky swings, visited with the parade of families out for an evening stroll, sipped on their iced tea, discussed the latest happenings and talked to their kids about their dreams and plans for tomorrow.
No invitation necessary.
And yes, I realize that younger readers have no idea what I’m talking about. Sad.
Nightly, men gathered on the steps, listening to their favorite baseball team on the radio, whooping and hollering when Stan Musial rounded the bases or Bob Feller struck out the side. No one considered hiding away in dark living rooms while Netflix or Prime TV became their life-line of relationship and entertainment. Who would waste their time on that when there were fireflies outside, beckoning to be placed in jars or turned into engagement rings? When fresh hop-scotch box lines were blurred by the footsteps of giggly girls, and young boys played stickball under the streetlight, no coaching allowed?
Car doors were unlocked, keys in the ignition, no club to lock the steering wheel in place, no alarm that shook the neighbor’s house if someone neared the car. Yards had no fences. There was no need for warning signs that houses were being monitored, no cameras attached to doorbells and garage eaves.
During the day, window drapes were open, inviting. Mothers prepared family meals, often taking extras to an ailing neighbor or elderly church member. They cleaned and sewed, spanked the front porch welcome mat and brewed fresh, sweet tea, waiting for the evening pattern to repeat itself.
Hospitality was key to civility and friendship. Everything shouted an invitation to join in. Be a part of our family. Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!
No more. The last two generations have moved towards privacy, and now, with Covid-19, they are realizing a new kind of isolation. Yet, the more isolated we become, the more insulated we become. Look around and you’ll see few front porches. Most home “socializing” has turned to the fenced-in back yard where the BBQ and patio and cornhole make it clear that people are to stay out unless invited in.
And yet, I find it ironic that today many are barking at the unfairness of being forced to stay away from other people. “Our rights are being violated”…you know, the rights to hang with people in close proximity, the “rights” that we discarded when we adopted the mantra “Mi casa es mi casa,” built homes with no front porches, closed our shades and self-isolated. Because that’s the way we wanted it. But now, we protesteth much.
So, I have to wonder, once the restrictions are lifted, will we open up our homes and engage in others’ lives? Ummm, probably not. Instead, we will return to our bubbles where we will meet in restaurants instead of our homes (after all, guests are soooo stressful), where we will spend little (if any) of our lives engaging with our neighbors. How many witnessing opportunities are lost because of our selfishness?
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield has written a best-selling book, The Gospel Comes with a Housekey,” challenging us to practice radical, ordinary, biblical hospitality as we use our homes to make strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into the family of God. This book is not for the excuse-makers. It is for those who want to see others come to know Christ.
So now, if you will excuse me, I need to brew some sweet tea, shake out my welcome mat and sweep my deck. Feel free to drop by. No invitation necessary.