I have always wanted to paint my front door red. A bright and beautifully bold red door sounds charming, don’t you think?
Sadly, my wish for a literal red door was expunged the moment I moved into a rosy-colored home; however, this desire has developed my thinking and moved me to desire a figurative red door, one that pleasantly forces me to adopt a new notion of hospitality.
What’s behind the red door?
For me, the appeal of a red door is it’s deep symbolism. Historically, a red front door means welcome; implying happiness, hospitality and place of safety. A red door heralds that all are welcome inside.
Often we focus our energy on styling or personalizing our home; we dream of renovation, decorating or re-furbishing projects. But how often do we ponder improvements to the essence and character that fills our home?
Mark Twain captures the heart of his home with such eloquence: “…to us our house was not insentient matter – it had a heart and a soul and eyes to see us with; our approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome – and we could not enter it unmoved.”
This is a tall order, I know, but much can be said about us by the tone we set for our home, and who we invite in. Do we keep company with only those who are popular or successful? Are the poor welcome? How about children? When is the last time that someone with a disability was invited to a party at your home?
Who will we open our doors to? Who will we let in?
To help us answer this question, allow me to introduce you to Katharina Von Bora Luther. Katharina was a German Catholic nun who fled the convent at the age of twenty-four and later married Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, during the 16th century. The Luthers were known for their seemingly limitless demonstration of hospitality. They hosted many visitors; at times there were as many as thirty people boarding with them! Some were guests, and most of the others were boarders or students. They took no payment from anyone.
Katie tended to everything, including their animals, orchard and vegetable garden. She even slaughtered the animals herself and brewed her own beer! That’s right, she brewed her own beer. Please remember that this may have been Reformation times, but it was also Germany—and what makes for a better German hostess than the provision of beer?
Katharina and Luther modeled extensive hospitality and generosity towards the poor and needy. Despite their financial constraints, this notable woman of history managed to care for a large number of guests. Her table was surrounded by her own six children, and by students who would come to dine while sharing in theological discussions.
A great woman learns the art of hospitality.
Hospitality speaks of kindness, warmth, generosity and “welcome.” Like Katharina, one way to begin our new journey as a hostess who welcomes all is by seizing the opportunity to invite those who will be unlikely to return our hospitality.
Don’t be too shy to include those individuals who may be awkward to be around, or extend an invitation to people who are in a different age or financial bracket. If we overlook those with a physical disability, or those who are not well liked, not wanted, too old, too young, or just not “cool,” then we have failed to extend true hospitality.
Adopting a new notion of hospitality goes well beyond the literal décor of one’s home. Perhaps the role of hostess needs to transform into an all-encompassing endeavor, one that surpasses the superficial. If Mark Twain speaks truth about a home possessing a heart, a soul, and eyes to see us with, would yours emanate peace in its benediction?
So, Darlings, unlock the latch, turn the handle, and take pleasure in opening your door to discover never-ending “red door” opportunities.
Let’s paint our towns red!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugardener/2345895499/