Community Requires Open Doors, Open Hands, and Open Hearts

“It’s like their second home,” she said laughing.
A dear friend was retelling a conversation about her children who were getting ready for our Halloween party. At some point in the journey across town she told her husband, “it’s like their second home.” And my heart skipped a beat. 
Hours later, after all the rest of the guests had piled into vehicles with their candy bags filled to the brim, this family stayed behind. The men headed to the garage to do “men things” (what it is about the aroma of the garage that is so appealing to them, I will never understand!) and the kids settled in on the couch for some “quiet time” to watch a movie. I moved into the kitchen to start picking up the remnants of dinner when I heard commotion at the front door: last-minute trick or treaters. 
Our kids all jumped up (still in costume) to ooh and ahh over the small children at the door, and after handing out handfuls of remaining candy (get it out of my house!) I heard my friend say, “have a good night, Happy Halloween”, like it was her house. And again, my heart smiled. It may have even shed a tear. 
That night was a dream come true. To have a home that was filled with friends who are like family. I’m sure you have some – those who are comfortable enough to answer your door, help clean your kitchen, and sit around late into the night telling stories and laughing with you.
Perhaps you are there are already – that is terrific! But maybe this is just a dream: having a place that you leave the front door open, tell people to “help themselves” and then sit down and put your feet up to chat with your neighbor,
This is what we’ve been working towards for over two years, and the lifestyle I am embracing. I’ve always wanted it – a house brimming with people – but I had a warped idea of what my home needed to look like before that could happen. What I’m learning is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful (thank you theNester).
Halloween was a beautiful night of celebrating with old and new friends, neighbors and co-workers. It definitely was not perfect. I did not custom print, or hand-letter, a menu. There were no place mats, or pinterest-perfect centerpieces. There was a roll of paper towels placed strategically in the middle of the kitchen and red solo cups for people to sip their drinks from. Adorning my 8-foot-long DIY farm table was an old curtain, because honestly, I don’t own a tablecloth, and I didn’t have anything else long enough to cover it. But it was orange (festive!) and there were no complaints.
No one wondered why there were plastic utensils and paper plates, or why there weren’t mason jars full of candles and flowers. (The magazine articles are lying to you friends; you don’t have to do any of that in order to achieve “the perfect party”.) My friends didn’t judge my less-than-perfect rental house, or whine when we ran out of chairs outside. They filled their bellies with comfort food while the kids ran wild in the backyard. The little ones destroyed my chalk board art in favor of their own designs, and helped themselves to the games and puzzles because they felt at home.  And I couldn’t have received a better compliment!
Yes, my introverted side enjoyed the quiet after everyone went home and the kids went to bed. My husband and I sat with our feet up and let our brains turn to mush in front of the television and it was also perfection.
But earlier, when the doors were open and the food was ready, and the kids were shrieking in the backyard and playing tag… my heart was bursting in those moments. For that is how life is supposed to be lived: together.
With open hands and open doors. Not waiting to arrive, achieve, or attain perfection, but letting people in now. Into the mess and chaos. Into the loud and rough-around-the-edges parts. Into the deep and darker parts as well as those that everybody gets to see.

And by now you know that I’m not just talking about our homes. But also our hearts.

We need to let others in. To let down the guards that we’ve built saying, “when I’ve got this area of life figured out, then I’ll get deep with my friends.” We need to stop worrying about what someone may think, or say, or believe about us, and just be ourselves. We need to stop waiting for someone else to give an invitation and just step up with an offer.

And parents: we need to stop apologizing… for the messy kids, and yelling at kids, and being exhausted because of the kids.  We need to stop letting real life embarrass us when it happens in front of our friends. Because the truth is – all of that is their reality too!

What would your day or your life look like if you stopped compartmentalizing, comparing and controlling and just said yes? Yes to having people over – even if the house is messy. Yes to coffee with a friend, even if only for 20 minutes. Yes to helping a neighbor, even if it’s your only Saturday morning off work. Yes to running an errand, even if it is inconvenient. Yes to making a batch of cookies, playing in the yard until dark, or opening your door.

We can’t wait until life is perfect. In our homes or relationships. Everyone has the mess. We ought to embrace and invite others into it. Life is better when it is lived together.

That’s why I’m working hard these days to say yes more often. To live with open hands. Open doors. And an open heart.