I remember taking walks on the quiet streets of Nevada, Mo., when I was freshman at Cottey College. My roommate and I would leave the suite we shared with eight other women and wander down to a nearby park, escaping calculus and statistics for an hour or so.
Usually by the time we were walking back, I could see lights on in the homes we passed. A TV would flicker in one house. A porch light would come on at another. If it was nice out, you could catch part of a family’s dinner conversation through the window screen.
And it all looked divine to me.
If I could only get through college, start a career and family, then I’d have that warmth, that calm and loving routine, in a home of my own. In all my walks past those houses, I never once thought that maybe the TV was on to numb a painful marriage, or maybe the porch light was on to welcome someone home from a second job – a job that was needed to pay the mortgage. From the curb, and from my own naivety, I assumed that everything was fine in those cozy houses.
I know now that I was probably wrong, that life has a way of becoming complicated even when flowerbeds are properly groomed and sidewalks are freshly swept. Yet still today, I make the mistake of staying at the curb, of walking past when friends and neighbors are hurting behind closed doors.
It’s messy, this idea of loving one another. It requires active involvement. It’s risky, entangling and time consuming. But after all these years, it’s time I learned the lesson. It’s time I put it into practice.