Yesterday I flew to Portland, Oregon, where I’ll be officiating a friend’s wedding on Saturday.
I was in flight during the Presidential debate last night, but it was available to stream on the airplane’s in-flight entertainment system, so I forced myself to watch it because I’m a U.S. citizen and this is my country, for better or for worse.
After I landed, I got in my rental car and drove to my AirBnB rental — a small room in a cozy 3-bedroom apartment on the west side of town. I briefly said hello to the hostess, a 20-something-year-old chef named Arti, before taking a shower and falling asleep to the familiar sound of Portland rain.
This morning, with some trepidation, I opened my laptop to catch up on the news. My stomach turned, as it often does these days, reading about international disasters and violence, as well as the slow-mo, mud-slinging mosh pit our political system has become.
And then there was a knock at my bedroom door. And a sweet voice saying, “Good morning, Sarah! I hope you slept well!”
I opened the door to find Arti standing there beaming, holding a wooden tray with a French press, a cup and saucer, a pitcher of cream and sugar cubes.
As I took the tray from her, I felt my tense shoulders relaxing. I smiled and took a deep breath.
In the midst of the depressing state of affairs, a moment of kindness.
In a time when it feels like I’m constantly fighting off despair, a moment to take a deep breath and receive a thoughtful token of hospitality.
In the midst of literal and metaphorical rain, a warm, comfortable, safe shelter.
In the midst of traveling here and there, a glimpse of home.
My friend Tony Kriz lives in Portland. He once told me about the significance of houses with red doors.
In early America, before there were sites like Hotels.com or AirBnB, red doors were like welcome mats that signaled to weary travelers and lost souls that they were welcome to stay in that home until they were ready to travel again.
Red doors were also used by people in the Underground Railroad movement, signaling to runaway slaves that they would find sympathetic, safe people in that home who would hide them until it was safe for the slaves to resume their flight towards freedom.
The French press coffee Arti served me this morning reminds me that, while many of us don’t literally have red front doors, and probably don’t often take literal strangers into our homes, we can practice the idea of Red Doors in a deeper, metaphorical, spiritual way — or, as I like to call it, Emotional Hospitality.
With a non-judgmental posture, gentle words, open minds and receptive hearts, we can signal to the people around us — regardless of political party, income, personality, theological persuasion, skin color, immigration status, physical appearance, gender or whatever other criteria we often use to distance ourselves and shut people out — that we are people of the Red Doors.
With our attitudes, actions and words, we can say….
…It’s safe for you to spend time with me.
…Rest your weary heart and feet.
…Take in nourishment that you don’t have to prepare or repay.
…Enjoy a respite from the storms in your life….
….until you’re ready to venture out into the storm again.
…..until you –and I — are safely Home.