You can tell a lot about an era and the people who lived in it by looking at their doors. Here’s an old door that has certainly seen its better days, but it still has a lot of character. First, you’ll see that there’s no lock. Never had it; never needed it. There was no one to lock out and no one to lock in. There’s not even a latch. This was a door designed to keep the elements out and possibly animals but nothing else.
Imagine living in a world where not only do you not have to lock your door, but your door doesn’t even have a lock in case the idea of locking it might have somehow entered your head. Imagine being in a place so safe that theft was not a concern, not even a thought. Imagine living without fear of strangers, without worrying about crime. Your door is simply the gateway to the outdoors, or to the indoors depending on which side you’re on.
|A doorway to another time.|
If you lived in a world like that, you wouldn’t need a hook by the door to keep your keys. You wouldn’t have to go searching for your keys when you misplaced them because you wouldn’t have any keys to misplace. You wouldn’t have to worry if you lost your keys that someone might find them and enter your house while you were asleep or away. You wouldn’t have to worry about locking yourself out by accident and having to wait for someone to get home or having to break a window to get in.
And if you didn’t have to worry about all of those things, imagine how comforting that would be. No fear of loss, no fear of trespassing, no fear of others. Imagine what freedom that would bring, and it would be so natural, so expected. Imagine that every person you met would be automatically viewed as a potential friend and not a criminal. Imagine the safety of simply smiling and saying hello to someone because you haven’t locked everything up--including your heart--when you left your house in the morning.
There’s a lot of psychology to turning the key in a lock. Don’t believe me? Then try it sometime. Leave your house one day without locking the door. Just leave. Don’t bring your key with you. Leave it in the house. Your door will look exactly the same, so no one will know that it’s not locked. How do you feel? Unsafe? Insecure? Does it make you feel confused, sort of like that nagging feeling of knowing you were supposed to do something but didn’t? Do you find yourself thinking all day long about the door and the lock and your house and your stuff? Your muscles might be pretty sore by the end of the day from all that fear and tightening.
In the photo, there are old windows on both sides of the door-that-has-no-lock to see who has come to visit you or to check out the weather. Candles used to be kept there, and right by the door there was a gun. Wait . . . does that mean that the residents didn’t feel safe? No, not at all. They felt quite safe, indeed. It was for hunting or protecting livestock from predators, for the most part. It was part of everyday life, and no one was afraid of it. The lock took its place years into the future, but it was a poor substitute that was only good at locking the residents inside and protected nothing.
A candle in the window was lit when a family member was away so he could find his way back. It was also lit because houses were far away, and spotting a candle in a window provided comfort and shelter if one was lost in a storm. A candle in the window was a beacon that provided hope. A candle in the window often announced a birth or other good news in the family. And one lonely candle lit in a window in a lonely room was a sign left for a family member who had passed on. His soul could find home in the darkness because of the candle.
Old doors and old windows give us a glimpse into a time that has now passed, but that time still lives within each of us. Can there be one among us who would not want a world where locks were unnecessary and where a lit candle called out friendship into the night? So long as these things still live in us--and they do--we can strive for a time like that again. At the very least, we can conjure the feeling of safety--the right of safety and home that was a given in everyone’s life at some point in America.